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Immigration reform criticized

first_imgThe reforms also call for a guest-worker program that would issue about 400,000 visas a year for largely low-skilled immigrants seeking employment for two years. Sean McHugh, spokesman for Greeley, Colo.-based meatpacking giant Swift & Co., said he supports many of the reforms but worries that the measure will cause high turnover. “Our needs are year-round, and we do invest a substantial amount of time and money in training a new hire, so we obviously prefer to keep them on the payroll rather than lose them,” he said. Swift was hit with big immigration raids Dec.12 at its plants in six states. In all, authorities arrested nearly 1,300 illegal-immigrant suspects. Many high-tech companies that routinely face shortages of skilled workers said the reform measure could actually make it tougher to find employees with the specific skills and experience they need in the fast-changing high-tech world. Currently, high-tech companies recruit specific foreigners who possess the precise skills they need. These foreigners are issued what are called H1-B visas. The reform measure would instead create a point system that rewards people with advanced degrees and special skills. Some high-tech companies complain that this would give them less control over the selection process. They also say the government needs to make more H1-B visas available to highly educated professionals. Compete America, which represents a number of major U.S. companies, including Google, Intel and Microsoft, opposes the revamped guidelines for H1-B visas. “This could be a disaster for U.S. competitiveness,” said Vivek Wadhwa, an India-born founder of two tech startups in North Carolina’s Research Triangle. “We may get more cheap labor, but we’re going to lose the engineers and scientists that we need to keep our global edge.” Some businesses are also worried about a provision that would require employers to verify workers’ immigration status using a new computer database. The National Association of Home Builders, which lobbies on behalf of construction companies, called the measure “unwieldy and unworkable.” The bill “would do irreparable harm to America’s small businesses, which have generated the lion’s share of new job growth in the economy,” said Jerry Howard, the organization’s executive vice president and chief executive. The Daily News contributed to this report.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! Chicken farmer Lucious Adkins doesn’t see how he could stay in business if Congress passes an immigration-reform bill that would require his immigrant workers to go home for a year. “I can’t go six months without growing a chicken. We’ll be out of business when they come back,” said Adkins, who owns one of the biggest chicken farms in Georgia and serves as president of the United Poultry Growers Association. U.S. businesses reliant on immigrants have long pushed for reforms to address their need for labor, but many at both ends of the spectrum complain that the proposal Senate leaders and President George W. Bush endorsed would prove too disruptive and make it too hard for them to find the workers they need. Across the country, industries such as carpet manufacturing, farming, poultry processing, meatpacking, construction, restaurants and hotels depend heavily on low-skill or unskilled illegal immigrants. Technology companies, meanwhile, increasingly look outside the United States to find engineers, programmers and other highly skilled workers who are here legally, mostly on temporary work visas. The Valley Industry and Commerce Association has not taken a position on the bill, but chairman Bob Scott says he personally thinks too many restrictions will be bad for business. “It may prevent the skilled workers we need to come live and earn on our soil,” Scott said. Among other things, the legislation would grant legal status to the estimated 12million illegal immigrants already in the United States, allowing them to seek permanent legal residency or citizenship. They would be subject to a $5,000 fee and fines, and the heads of households would have to return to their country of origin temporarily. Roberto Barragan, president of the Valley Economic Development Center, thinks undocumented workers will be willing to pay fines to become naturalized, but he said temporarily sending workers home is draconian. “The more complicated we make it, it very well may affect the labor supply,” Barragan said. last_img

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