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On the Fence

Entrepreneurs weigh in on the immigration debate.

After being hotly debated around the country, President Bush's plan for broad immigration reform is likely dead in Congress until next year. Among the plan's provisions is a crackdown on businesses that hire illegal immigrants-and that's an idea legitimate businesspeople welcome. Robert Sparrow, owner and president of 1st Call Cleaning Services in San Antonio, Texas, says that without shady competitors offering below-market prices made possible by cheaper undocu-mented labor, his commercial-cleaning business would boom. "Then our customers would have to pay an appropriate amount to have their buildings cleaned," says the 40-year-old entrepreneur, whose business has $2 million in annual sales.

Business owners worry that they may unwittingly hire illegal workers using phony documents and be penalized for it. Better methods of verifying a worker's status that don't overburden businesses are definitely needed, says Todd Hess, owner and president of Todd Hess Building Co. in Portland, Oregon.

"I don't think we should be offering driver's licenses to people who can't prove they're here legally," says the 48-year-old owner of the $5 million commercial-remodeling business. Hess would like to see a guest worker program where immigrants could fill job vacancies. But he'd be interested only if the workers could stay long enough to justify his training investment.

While the next chapter in this debate unfolds, you can learn more about where the various sides stand-and add your voice-by contacting your congressperson. Background about the points in the president's immigration reform proposal can be found at

The author is an Entrepreneur contributor. The opinions expressed are those of the writer.

Carol Tice, a freelance writer, is chief executive of TiceWrites Inc. in Bainbridge Island, Wash. She blogs about freelance writing at Make a Living Writing. Email her at

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This article was originally published in the October 2006 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: On the Fence.

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