Wyoming and the cost of Immigration- Part 1

Published: Dec. 15, 2022 at 11:02 PM CST
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CHEYENNE, Wyo. (Wyoming News Now) - During the pandemic, the U.S. saw “The Great Resignation” and “The Great Labor Reshuffle.” In 2021, 47 million Americans quit their jobs.

But the labor and workforce shortage continues many workers look for a better work-life balance and higher salaries.

So where does that leave the labor and service industry, and where does that leave Wyoming?

Over the last three years, the U.S. saw a mass exodus from service and labor jobs. As inflation, union debates, and layoffs threaten more jobs; there remains a continued job gap the “back to normal” post-pandemic era has yet to fill.

As we watch our neighboring southern states deal with the border crisis, many wonder what can be done to help.

As economic leaders grow our state’s businesses and try to increase our younger population, the problem isn’t going away.

Jobs remain unmet even after the pandemic, but there could be an untapped resource.

Wyoming is the only state that does not have a refugee center.

“If you do look at the results of the last census, we grew much less than all the states in our region. So I think we should look and ask why are we not growing the same way they are,” said Jerry Fowler. Assistant Professor of the College of Law- Immigration at the University of Wyoming.

Pew Research says immigrants are a young workforce and tend to have larger families.

“I think everybody is realizing that we have a serious problem that the border is kind of a mess and it needs to be fixed. But at the same time, we have folks that are applying for workers, certain workers for certain visas, and there aren’t enough workers to go around. We’ve talked to several employers in Cheyenne that that has happened to, so we have to find some balance,” said Dale Steenbergen, The Greater Cheyenne Chamber of Commerce.

Econofacts experts say the labor shortage is due to tightening immigration over the last two administrations. At the same time, congress has struggled over two decades to get DACA immigrants protections and citizenship while strengthening our border.

“Congress just has a couple more weeks to work. It’s looking not very promising for legislation to be passed,” says Fowler.

Wyoming has been supportive at times of refugees, particularly to refugees fleeing Afghanistan and Ukraine, but it hasn’t always been that way.

Fowler says if Wyomingites let go of their partisanship or fear of immigration, we might be able to use this vast resource to make our state abundant.

This broad topic can’t be covered in just one piece. So in our next article. We’ll talk to a local ACLU advocate and more with our University legal professor.