On Tuesday, 31 local community leaders ranging from the co-founder of Utah’s Minutemen to Latino activists gathered in Salt lake City as part of an immigration reform roundtable. Gov. Gary Herbert’s “immigration summit” at times became tense between those who favor strongly restricting immigration with those seeking a more inclusive policy. Nonetheless most at the meeting reportedly agreed that Utah should start its own guest worker program. One possible plan as introduced by State Sen. Howard Stephenson would have employers post a $20,000 bond per worker while the laborer would pay a deposit to ensure that he stays at his job. A similar proposal from the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce would require a two-year contract and potential employees to submit themselves to medical and criminal background checks.
The guest worker plans are not without their problems, however; chef among these is the potential that they could violate federal law prohibiting employers from knowingly hiring those ineligible from legal employment. Some politicos claimed that a guest worker program would be “impractical” though one business leader believed that it would be mostly beneficial:
Randy Parker, of the Utah Farm Bureau, said one rancher reported that 300 of his lambs died because Peruvian migrant workers were delayed by 30 days during a critical lambing period.An historical antecedent to Utah’s potential guest worker plans could be the federal Bracero Program that ran from 1942 to 1964.
Parker said workers fear that, if they return to their native countries, they won’t be able to return the next year. Consequently, many overstay their permits.
Online Sources- The Latin Americanist, Democracy Now, Herald Extra, KSL.com, Salt Lake Tribune, Wikipedia
Image - New York Times ("Braceros, here in 1963, were often farmhands.")