Senate approves bill to help farmers hire seasonal workers
DENVER – The Senate on Friday backed a proposal to help farmers and ranchers hire temporary workers from Mexico and other countries.Senators voted 20-15 for the bill, sending it back to the House to consider changes made by the Senate. The measure (House Bill 1325) creates a pilot program allowing the state labor department to help bring 1,000 workers to Colorado in the first year under the existing federal H2-A visa program.The state would hire agents abroad, most likely in Mexico, to help potential workers with paperwork and to coordinate medical screenings for them. Other states contract with companies to perform this middleman role but farm groups say those firms have been reluctant to work in Colorado because of its strict laws against illegal immigration.Five Democrats, including Senate President Peter Groff, voted with ten Republicans against the bill after senators rejected an amendment that would have allowed workers to file confidential labor complaints.Sen. John Morse, D-Colorado Springs, voted against the bill because he didn’t think it did enough to protect workers.”These are human beings that deserve some basic human rights,” Morse said.But Sen. Dave Schultheis, R-Colorado Springs, voted against the bill because he said it was weak in preventing illegal immigration. He said it should require officials to track how many workers failed to return to their country after their jobs in Colorado ended.
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