Immigrants await details on Bush plan
SUMMIT COUNTY – A 49-year-old mother and her two daughters inconspicuously made their way around Summit County on Monday, running a series of errands.
The three came to the county from Mexico in search of a better life, as have so many thousands before them.
They are optimistic about higher wages and better living conditions, but they forego many services because of their status as illegal immigrants.
“If you don’t have documentation and you go to the hospital, the hospital goes to the police, and you go back to Mexico,” the 15-year-old daughter said.
The three are encouraged by a recent proposal by President Bush that may enable them to emerge from the shadows.
Last week, Bush unveiled a plan that would authorize three-year work permits for immigrants – even for those who are now in the U.S. illegally.
“It’s very good that he’s talking about it,” the mother said, “if he actually follows through and does the things he promises.”
Immigrants around the county echoed similar sentiments last week on the heels of Bush’s announcement. They joined policy-makers, immigrant advocates and foreign workers around the county in wondering what the president’s plan will mean in real terms.
“There are many questions without answers right now,” said Dillon resident Rosa Saenz, who works as a housekeeper. “I fear that what Bush is saying now will never become reality in the future.”
“The proposal is so vague right now,” said Christina Carlson, executive director of the Summit County Family and Intercultural Resource Center (FIRC) in Dillon.
“We’ve had mixed reactions from our clients. Some have reacted positively, in that it does at least allow people to work and be documented. Others say that it’s not a permanent solution. There’s also the feeling that this is just a ploy to gain votes before the election.
“In three years, where are these people if they can’t renew their permit for some reason? What about assistance in residency and citizenship?” Carlson said.
“What if their kids are in school and their three years are up? Will they be able to get driver licenses and car insurance? There are just a lot of unanswered questions.”
Human resources officials at Vail Resorts don’t expect to see major changes.
“It won’t have too much of an effect on us, because we don’t hire illegal aliens,” said Sarah Benjes, international staffing manager for Vail Resorts. “It will increase our pool of available applicants, because there are so many illegal immigrants here, but a lot of our positions end after the (winter) season and we couldn’t prove that we needed a ski instructor for three whole years.
“A lot of our positions are snow-dependent,” Benjes added.
Under Bush’s proposal, employers must demonstrate that no American workers want to work in positions for which they would hire foreign workers.
“In the last couple of years, we haven’t had any difficulty in filling our positions,” said Vail Resorts spokesperson Kelly Ladyga.
Julie Sutor can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 203, or at
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