February 11,  2020

Washington, DC — Rep. John Curtis (R-UT) joined Utah Governor Gary Herbert for a discussion at Cato Institute to discuss state-based visas and his bill the State Sponsored Visa Pilot Program Act of 2019. Introduced last November, the legislation would create a new state-sponsored temporary worker visa pilot program.

“States are far better equipped to know the needs of their individual economies than the federal government is. My State Sponsored Visa Pilot Program Act grants states the flexibility to tailor a visa program based on their industries and needs. It will create an additional tool to connect workers with industries that are most in need and allow visa holders flexibility to move throughout the state as employment opportunities and demands shift. There’s no quick fix to our immigration system, but I am excited to be proposing real common-sense solutions to address the problem.”

Background

The legislation will:

  • Create a pilot program at the Department of Homeland Security for states to opt-in and sponsor three-year visas.
  • Allow states the flexibility to customize their visa allocations based on each state’s unique economy and needs.
  • Incentivize states to comply with program rules in order to earn additional visas the next year.
  • Encourage states to enter into compacts, giving additional flexibility to visa holders and employers to move seasonal workers between them as needed.

Full text of the bill is available [HERE]. FAQ available via PDF [HERE]

The Congressman’s remarks, as prepared for delivery, are below:

“One thing I consistently hear from business owners in my district is that they need access to workers across many industries. For example, there is a landscaping company in Orem that has had a hard time getting enough workers under our current visa system and their business has suffered because of it. An excavator in Utah is being offered more work than he can handle with his current workforce. He has the equipment for 2 more crews, but because he can’t find consistent, dependable workers, his equipment is sitting idle. These are just two examples of how the current visa programs are not sufficient.

Our current immigration system is broken and in desperate need for modernization and reform. As with most things, one-size-fits-all programs and solutions do not completely address the problems that our communities are facing. Each state has unique industries and employment opportunities, and our current immigration system doesn’t fully recognize these differences. Utah’s economy is very different than Louisiana’s or California’s and thus have different employment needs.

As a former mayor, I know first-hand that the layer of government closest to the problem generally comes up with the best solutions. States are far better equipped to know the needs of their individual economies than the federal government is. My State Sponsored Visa Pilot Program Act grants states the flexibility to tailor a visa program based on their industries and needs. It will create an additional tool to connect workers with industries that are most in need and allow visa holders flexibility to move throughout the state as employment opportunities and demands shift.

There’s no quick fix to our immigration system, but I am excited to be proposing real common-sense solutions to address the problem.”

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