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Utah business leaders praise President Obama’s idea, criticize methods

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Posted at 8:07 PM, Nov 20, 2014
and last updated 2014-11-20 22:11:33-05

SALT LAKE CITY — Some of Utah’s biggest businesses will take advantage of one of President Barack Obama’s executive orders, even while many of the executives in those businesses disagree with the way the President changed immigration policy.

They want highly skilled workers who would otherwise be sent out of the country.

“Some days I only had three things to work on, visas, visas and visas,” said Coldwell Banker’s Lew Cramer of his attempts to hire qualified technical workers.

A group of business and other community leaders gathered at the corporate offices of Overstock.com to talk about immigration policy and it’s impact on Utah’s businesses and economy.

Their biggest complaint: the U.S. does not provide enough visas for science, technology, engineering and math students graduating from U.S. Universities.

“There are countries like Canada and Singapore taking advantage of this, granting visas to these U.S. educated innovators,” said Overstock.com’s board chair Jonathan Johnson.

That feeling was echoed on the campus of the University of Utah.

Water Resource Engineering Ph.D candidate Adel Abdallah said: “There are really high qualified people that come to this country. There’s a lot of money that’s spent on them, to educate them. but once they’re done, they have 60 days to leave the country and go home.”

Jorge Dennis, President of EnviroKleen–which is a cleaning and maintenance company–said he believes immigration is a human problem before it’s a business problem.

“I know a number of people who are in this situation, and they’re good people,” Dennis said.

But Dennis said the actions he expected from the President were too unilateral, and thus dangerous.

“I think he thinks he’s doing the right thing,” he said.