Ski resorts struggle to hire as Trump temporarily bars variety of foreign worker visas

DENVER — Milagros Sotelo was looking forward to traveling from South America to Tennessee to start a job at Ober Gatlinburg ski resort this winter. The 22-year-old student worked the last two ski seasons in the equipment rental shop at the small resort nestled in the Smoky Mountains and was excited to reconnect with friends, practice her English and take a break from law school in Lima, Peru, where she lives.

But on June 22, President Donald Trump signed an executive order temporarily barring a wide variety of foreign worker visas, including J-1 visas often issued to South American students who come to North America during their summer break. Sotelo’s plans were put on hold, and now she is scrambling to find a job closer to home.

As ski resorts try to figure out how to operate safely during the coronavirus pandemic, by requiring face masks, enforcing social distancing in lift lines and eliminating dine-in service, Trump’s order has added another obstacle heading into the winter: hiring enough temporary workers to fill crucial jobs like operating chair lifts, serving food and cleaning hotel rooms.

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