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National Restaurant Association - Ask the operator

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Ask the operator

Valerie Gonzalez, president, Delicious Tamales, San Antonio
I’ve been in business for 33 years.  We produce 4.5 million tamales a year and sell them from seven locations, including a restaurant next to the main plant. Most locations are take out, some with a few tables and chairs. Recently, the Department of Homeland Security made me let seven long-time employees go because they had false papers. These were good, hardworking people, key to my business. They knew my production process, which took many years for me to train them to do. A lot of them have lived here a long time, and they will continue to stay here. The only reason they came to this country is because they want to work and to better themselves.

Phil Lampert, owner, Dakotah Steakhouse, Custer, S.D.
South Dakota is a tourism destination in the summer months, and it gets more and more difficult to find summer employees. When I had a resort company, I would advertise months in advance on college campuses, at job fairs and on Indian reservations. I hardly ever had enough employees to even begin to open the doors. The H-2B program was a breath of fresh air for me – I couldn’t have been a bigger fan. But there was a cap on the number of visas available.

I was privileged to represent the industry in 2006 in a meeting with President Bush. I talked about the need for a fair guest worker system and an amnesty program that lets qualified undocumented workers earn green cards. I still feel that way. This problem isn’t going to go away. The shortage of workers in the hospitality industry isn’t just seasonal. There are too many jobs Americans won’t do.

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