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Immigration emerges as business issue in campaign tour

Published July 25, 2012 4:20 pm

2nd District candidate says employers are looking to hire willing workers, even undocumented ones.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

In 24 hours ending Thursday morning, Jay Seegmiller will have met with 24 businesses to discuss their concerns and how he would help them if elected to Utah's 2nd Congressional District.

Seegmiller said through the first leg of the campaign journey, which began in Davis County, concerns about illegal immigration were brought up by several business owners.

"They've expressed concerns that it's hard to get employees that are willing to work and the ones that are typically willing to work hard are the ones they can't hire legally," Seegmiller said. "They would like to see some kind of process where they can hire those willing workers."

The Democrat is running for Utah's 2nd District seat against Republican Chris Stewart.

Stewart said he would like to see comprehensive immigration reform — including a review of the work visa program. He said, however, the issue hasn't come up as much as he thought it would since he's been traveling the district and talking to voters.

"Most seem to be focused on putting our financial house in order," Stewart said. "But it's still an important issue and it's a complicated issue."

It's important to Mike Wright, the owner of Wright Sheds in Woods Cross. He was one of Seegmiller's first stops on the business tour.

Wright said he has 13 employees — mostly in construction — and that over the past two years, he's had trouble expanding his workforce.

"I hired in a week five white guys and, at the end of the week, I had none of them," Wright said. "It was easier for them to stay at home and get some kind of government assistance."

There are an estimated 100,000 illegal immigrants in Utah and the state has attempted to take measures to allow them to work — including Gov. Gary Herbert signing a law that would authorize the state to issue work permits to them, provided they pass background checks and pay fines.

But the law doesn't take effect until July 2013 and legislative analysts have cautioned that the law is likely unconstitutional.

Seegmiller said the 24-hour tour meeting with business owners in the massive district that spans as far south as Washington County was his way of showing he is "thinking of business 24/7."

Seegmiller is a former state representative and railroad conductor. He won the Democratic nomination at the state party convention in April.