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Snow sports industry reacts candidly to Utah's guest worker plan

Park City, Utah's Deer Valley resort at night, February 2011
Park City, Utah's Deer Valley resort at night, February 2011
Photo by Tom Kelly/Flickr (Creative Commons)

The snow sports website published an editorial today praising Utah's state legislature for approving a bill that would grant two-year work permits to undocumented workers, provided they pay fines and can prove they have been living and working in the state.

What's most interesting about the piece is its candor:

Winter and summer tourist promoters feared passage of "Arizona-style" bills that take a hard line on persons living in the United States without proper documentation.

In Utah, as in many tourist states, such immigrants come looking for work and fill essential though menial positions at many resorts, like cleaning rooms.

The piece goes on:
Anyone who stays at a Rocky Mountain winter resort has likely seen the proliferation of Spanish-speaking employees, particularly those from Mexico, in recent years. However, mountain resorts in Utah and elsewhere don't reveal how many undocumented workers are employed in their lodges, restaurants and other facilities - if they even know.

Evidence of their concern, however, was revealed by the intensity with which tourism and farm industries lobbied for passage of bills that would grant some legal status to such workers.

The guest worker bill cleared both houses of Utah's legislature late Friday, along with a bill allowing police to check the immigration status of people suspected of serious crimes. Utah’s governor is expected to sign the package. The governor will have until 2013 to negotiate with the federal government for a waiver for the guest worker program, as it is illegal under federal law for employers to knowingly hire unauthorized workers.

If no waiver is obtained by then, the plan is for the guest worker program to still go into effect. However, Utah's immigration package will likely face legal challenges if it becomes law.