Aspen Mayor, Pitkin Commissioners and Valley business owners call for immigration reform

November 22, 2013
Aspen Mayor Steve Skadron, along with several Pitkin County Commissioners and Roaring Fork Valley business leaders held a press conference Thursday calling for congressman Scott Tipton to pass an immigration reform bill that includes a pathway to citizenship. KDNK's Ed Williams reports.
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Representatives from the hotel and construction industries, as well as Aspen Skiing Company, said fixing immigration reform is not only a moral imperative for elected representatives—but that the country's restrictive immigration laws are hurting their businesses ability to hire the seasonal labor they depend on.

Mark Gould, owner of Gould Construction, said the construction industry has a need for between 800,000 and a million workers, and that Colorado's requirement that companies screen employees for citizenship using the E-Verify system is creating a labor shortfall for construction businesses.

"We are not able to use this workforce. It's a math problem that we need to have our representatives in Washington stop denying. We need these workers," Gould said.

That message was echoed by Warren Klug of the Aspen Chamber Resort Association, who said immigration reform was crucial for the tourism and hospitality industries in the Roaring Fork Valley.

Matt Hamilton, Sustainability Director for Aspen Skiing Company, said SkiCo relies on skilled seasonal immigrant workers to run many of its operations, and that the number of temporary work visas has declined to almost nothing because of restrictive visa requirements. Hamilton and others at the panel called on Congressman Scott Tipton to work towards a comprehensive immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship.

"Those of us who stand here today are committed to finding a way forward," Hamilton said. "Congressman Tipton we hope that today marks the turning point in your own journey that leads you to take up this cause for your constituents. Quite simply, we can't squander this opportunity—the opportunity of a generation. In the last two weeks, Speaker Boehner has chosen to retreat into the shadows rather than lead on this issue. But Congressman Tipton, you do not need to blindly follow. You were elected to represent the diverse interests of your district, and today we ask you to lead, to move from compassion to action. Leaving a broken immigration system as it stands today is not an option."

Aspen mayor Steve Skadron, along with Pitkin County Commissioners Rachel Richards and Steve Child, also voiced their support for a federal immigration overhaul. Pitkin commissioners passed a resolution in support of immigration reform in September.

Thursday's conference was organized by the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition.