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National Restaurant Association - Is immigration reform dead? Restaurateurs in this state don’t think so

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Is immigration reform dead? Restaurateurs in this state don’t think so

Restaurateurs in the state that shares the longest border with Mexico think waiting another year for immigration reform is too long. The Texas Restaurant Association has pulled together business groups from the hotel, retail and other industries in an effort to show federal lawmakers that failure to enact reforms is coming at a cost to the state, and to the nation.

TRA CEO Richie Jackson spoke on behalf of the coalition this week at a press conference organized by the Partnership for a New American Economy, a pro-immigration reform group that the TRA, Texas Association of Retailers, Texas Hotel and Lodging Association, and South Texas Property Rights Association recently joined.

The coalition is meeting with Texas’s delegation to Congress in an effort to get a majority of the state’s 36 U.S. House members to support immigration reform. A reform bill passed the Senate last summer, but efforts to bring a bill to a House vote have stalled.

“We have a lot of concerns about whether we can get back to where we are today if we wait until 2015,” Jackson said. “We really think 2014 is the year immigration reform needs to be done. If Congress can step back from the rhetoric and look at the realities of where we are on immigration, there are some common solutions where people can find agreement.”

Much of the debate over immigration reform has focused on border security, which Jackson says is important. But the Texas coalition – along with the National Restaurant Association – believes Congress must create a path to legalization for the nation’s 11 million undocumented workers who already are contributing to the economy.

“The economy has picked back up significantly in Texas, and we’re again concerned about finding a qualified workforce,” Jackson said. “Particularly in areas where there’s substantial oil activity, there just isn’t an adequate number of workers. We have restaurants that can’t open their dining room to full capacity. We have restaurants unable to expand. If all you do is clamp down on borders and clamp down on employers, you’re going to stifle the economy and create shortages within the workforce.”

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