Colorado Horse Park's Guest Workers

Four hundred horses are on their way to the Colorado Horse Park in Parker, but the legal Mexican workers that Helen Krieble needs to clean up after them are stuck behind the border because the federal government is making an already difficult process practically impossible.

Last season Krieble imported eight legal Mexican workers in a tedious process that cost her $1,000 per head long before any of the workers earned a dime at her non-profit equestrian center. Last year they arrived April 1 and stayed in Colorado until the season ended on Halloween.

This year, half-way through May, Krieble’s still waiting for her guys.“The H2B visa process is more broken than it ever has been before because the federal piece, which used to take 30 days is now taking 120,” Krieble said, noting the feds cut back from three processing offices to just one. “We are desperately trying to find legal workers.”

But legal workers who’ll bust their asses shoveling horse shit and washing the animals and emptying heavy trash cans all day won’t work for what Krieble’s non-profit can afford to pay. And while Bush and the Democrats go back and forth over immigration reform, stalled on the controversy of what to do with the 12 or 13 million illegal immigrants already here, people like Krieble who seek out seasonal temporary workers are about to face an even greater challenge.

Typically, 66,000 new H2B visas are issued for seasonal non-agricultural workers like Krieble uses at her equestrian center and to tourist spots like ski resorts. But a provision that allowed for people returning on H2B visas to not be counted toward the 66,000 limit that the government issues is about to expire. The provision was created because the 66,000 supply was far short of the demand, but the competition remained fierce even with the provision. When it expires, finding workers will be even more difficult.

“And then they criminalize me because I can’t run my business without help from outside the country,” Krieble said. --Luke Turf