sheep herders

Sara Hossani

Last Monday saw the close of the public comment period concerning a proposed rule put forth by the U.S. Department of Labor that could cause serious harm to Wyoming’s sheep industry. Currently, most sheep herders in Wyoming are foreign and hold what are called H-2A visas. Under those visas, they are required to be paid $750-dollars a month and be provided room and board.

Rebecca Martinez / Wyoming Public Radio

The U.S. Department of Labor is considering whether to institute a new rule that would raise the required pay of foreign sheep herders with visas.

The rule would increase pay from $750 dollars a month plus room and board to $24-hundred dollars a month plus room and board. Those in the sheep industry say the increase could put them out of business and they apparently aren’t crying wolf.

Sara Hossaini

Debate over the immigration overhaul has found its way to the vast open spaces of Wyoming. Here, Peruvian guest workers on H2-A visas tend thousands of sheep. These shepherds make just $750 a month to be on the job around-the-clock, usually alone for months on end. That's around half of what other agricultural guestworkers make because sheep ranchers receive a special exemption from minimum wage requirements. Ranchers say it’s needed in order to save this small, struggling American industry.

Sen. Enzi answers questions on immigration reform

May 10, 2013

US Senator from Wyoming, Mike Enzi, addressed his constituents online about their concerns over immigration reform. In a video chat he releases bi-monthly, Enzi says that for Wyoming, guest worker programs are important, because ranchers rely on them for workers like sheep herders. He says that for him, the immigration reform bill that the Senate will soon consider needs to have a true E-verify component -- a program that lets employers check their employees’ eligibility to work in the United States.