Senator Hickenlooper introduces bill to bring more migrant workers to Colorado

"Our bill gives states more flexibility to advocate for the workers they need," Senator Hickenlooper said
The end of Title 42 leaves many migrants looking for answers
Posted at 11:06 AM, Aug 02, 2023
and last updated 2023-08-02 21:16:16-04

DENVER — As Colorado's top officials call for the federal government to give more migrants permission to work, U.S. Senator John Hickenlooper announced a new bill that could give the state more of a say in the process.

Sen. Hickenlooper, D-CO; Sen. John Tune, R-SD; and Sen. Pete Rickets, R-Neb.; introduced the bipartisan legislation known as the State Executive Authority for Seasonal Occupations Needing Additional Labor or SEASONAL Act.

If passed, the law would give governors the ability to petition the federal government to increase the number of temporary migrant visas their state can obtain.

"Colorado companies rely on H-2B workers. But in recent years, our businesses are facing widespread worker shortages because available visas haven't kept up with demand," Hickenlooper said in a news release. "Our bill gives states more flexibility to advocate for the workers they need."

Specifically, governors would be empowered to ask for additional H2B visas, a program typically used by Colorado businesses to hire landscapers, construction workers and housekeepers, among other non-agricultural jobs.

States would only qualify for these extra migrant workers if their unemployment rate is 3.5% or lower for at least nine months of the year prior to their request. Governors could also limit their request to specific jobs or economic development districts within the state.

This authority for governors would expire four years after the bill is passed, unless the U.S. Congress reauthorized it.

Colorado Governor Jared Polis is eager to join this effort. Gov. Polis will soon join other governors in a new immigration working group meant to find consensus and spur action to “address workforce needs, talent shortages, and utilize the gifts and abilities of New Americans," a spokesperson told Denver7.

Beginning in May, Gov. Polis and U.S. Sens. Hickenlooper and Michael Bennet urged the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to increase the number of temporary work authorizations available for hiring foreigners, including recently arrived migrants.

Colorado, and the city and county of Denver, have spent more than $31 million to help more than 13,000 migrants since last December.

Many of Colorado's top officials see an opportunity for these migrants to work and support themselves, while they wait for their day in immigration court. They argue this would reduce the cost to taxpayers and fill a labor shortage in the state.

Colorado's labor market is currently the tightest it’s ever been. For every unemployed Coloradan, there are 2.7 open jobs.

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