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Riverview finds employees in immigrants

Konz1 / 2
Juarez2 / 2

Immigration is critical to business at Riverview LLP, Matt Konz recently told a Morris Area High School government class..

"We need to rely on immigration," said Konz, who works in human resources at Riverview. Most of his job involves working with the immigrant workforce..

The agriculture company operates dairies, including a large facility in Stevens County, beef cattle lots, a construction company and related entities in several states including Minnesota. Its headquarters is in Morris.

Immigrants fill unskilled labor jobs and also those requiring more professional training, Konz said.

The company can't fill its open jobs with the available workforce in the U.S., Konz said.

Before it can hire any immigrants, the federal government requires the company to make sure no employees in the U.S. are available to take those unskilled jobs, Konz said.

VISA laws require Riverview to advertise in the U.S. to fill unskilled positions that most always will eventually be filled by immigrants, Konz said.

Riverview will advertise in at least 20 newspapers in several states and "we're lucky if we get one applicant," Konz said.

The company has found employees in Mexico, Konz said. It's willing to invest the time and money to hire those immigrants.

Riverview works with two main VISAS to hire immigrant employees, most of whom come from Mexico, Konz said.

The H2A VISA allows immigrants to fill temporary agricultural jobs. Many of Riverview's roughly 100 seasonal jobs are employees using H2A VISAS, Konz said.

Riverview also uses the TN VISA which is a VISA under the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA, that allows professionals from Mexico and Canada to work in the U.S. under a professional agreement with the business.

Benjamin Juarez, who works as a supervisor with West River, a subsidiary of Riverview, came to the U.S on a TN VISA, Konz said.

Juarez shared some of his story with students He grew up in a small town in the Mexican state of Michoacan.

"My family raised cattle,"Juarez said.

He completed college and worked as a veterinarian in Mexico. He's been at Riverview for 6 ½ years.

"Some friends worked for Riverview," Juarez said.

He was interviewed by Riverview officials in Mexico. Konz said the company recruits in Mexico much like businesses recruit on college campuses in the U.S.

Juarez is married and had two children. He was interested in the U.S. because of the "opportunity for a a good job, for my family to get a good education and a safe place to live."

Michorian is in western Mexico. Juarez said drug violence and extortion are common in the state. Michorian is often cited in media reports on the drug war and its history in Mexico.

Konz said Juarez now has his green card of residency in the U.S. Seventeen employees have achieved that status. Another 75 are in the process, he said.

Riverview was required to again advertise Juarez's position before he could obtain the green card to make sure no there were no available potential employees in the U.S. to fill the job, Konz said.

When an employee applies for the green card Riverview pays "for everything but the family (fee)," Konz said. It's uncommon for companies to do that but Riverview believes it's worth it to retain quality employees, Konz said.

The next step after obtaining a green card is citizenship but it can be a long process, Konz said.

"A person can be a resident for 30 years and not (obtain) citizenship," Konz said. "Residency does not guarantee citizenship."

"We have one employee who is two to three years away from before becoming our first person to apply for citizenship," Konz said. "We're really looking forward to that."

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