Will the Immigration Crunch Hurt the Rodeo?
Fri January 18, 2008 3:17 pm

I came across this article in the Brownsville Herald blog. The author quotes an amusement industry consultant as predicting that immigration enforcement may have an adverse impact on the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.

Circus Chimera, whose shows have been mainstays in South Texas for any number of years, has canceled its itinerary for the first time in its 10-year history. It isn't a lack of performing members - human or of the animal variety - that is shutting the circus down. Nope, it's that immigration crisis you hear about from the political types that got the job done, or in this case didn't get the jobs done.

The collective inability of our fearless leaders in Washington to reform our nation's immigration system to fit economic and business realities did Circus Chimera in. In one piece of a complicated political puzzle that Washington can't solve, a key provision in a temporary worker visa program expired in September 2007, and was never renewed.

The net result is that the circus company was not able to bring in the temporary workers it needed to do such necessary jobs as setting up benches and selling tickets. The circus company has always gone the legal route, participating in the H-2B visa program in bringing in the temporary and seasonal workers it needed, (from Mexico), but this year without an extension of the program, Circus Chimera could not go on.

"If employers can't secure visas through a legal route, then they'll have to hire undocumented workers if they want to stay in business," said John Meredith, who works with the amusement industry on a national level in matters involving employment issues.

Meredith, in making his comments last week to The Brownsville Herald, noted that it's not only the smaller shows that will be affected by immigration stalemate in Washington, but the larger productions as well, such as the Houston Livestock Show. Meredith predicts the Houston show will be significantly smaller this year due to the lack of legal workers once provided by the visa program.

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