Immigration-reform supporters champion their cause at Grand Junction rally

Four-year-old Jack Jensen of Grand Junction takes part in the immigration rally in front of the Alpine Bank building Thursday afternoon.

Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., on Thursday started his western Colorado pitch for an immigration measure crafted with seven other senators, a measure that got high marks at a rally in downtown Grand Junction.

A national agricultural organization welcomed the legislation put together by Bennet, three other Democrats and three Republicans, Bennet said after meeting with representatives of several organizations Thursday in the old Mesa County Courthouse.

“It’s a lot for people to process,” Bennet said of the legislation, which would allow farmers and ranchers in the United States to work primarily with the U.S. Department of Agriculture in hiring people for agricultural jobs.

If the U.S. can’t straighten up its immigration system, farmers and ranchers will have no choice but to locate south of the U.S. border, “where the workforce is,” Bennet said.

Olathe corngrower John Harold of Tuxedo Farms said the measure is well crafted and that Bennet worked effectively.

“It’s the best piece of legislation that I’ve ever seen,” Harold said, crediting Bennet with visiting farms and ranches to find a solution to the problems those businesses have finding employees.

Harold and others spoke at a rally at the Alpine Bank building in favor of the legislation at the same time Bennet was meeting with producers and others.

One feature of the program calls for people who have worked at least 150 days a year in agriculture for three years or 100 days a year for five years to be eligible for permanent residency.

People employed in other sectors would have to live 10 years in the U.S. before gaining permanent residency.

The legislation’s emphasis on easing demands on agriculture by reducing bureaucratic requirements could make it palatable to both sides of the aisle, said Les Mergelman of Cedaredge, a retired banker.

It would open possibilities for perhaps hundreds of families in the Grand Valley, the Rev. Mike Burr of Koinonia Church said at the rally, calling for Congress to “listen to the passionate voices” calling for reform of the immigration system.


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