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National Restaurant Association - Senate passes immigration reform bill

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Senate passes immigration reform bill

After weeks of debate, the U.S. Senate on Thursday passed the comprehensive immigration reform legislation authored by the bipartisan “Gang of Eight.” The legislation—the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act—passed by a vote of 68 to 32.

The bill, which the National Restaurant Association supported, includes a clear path to legalization for undocumented workers, national implementation of the E-Verify system that is used to determine eligibility for employment and increased border security won’t impede legal travel and tourism.

The NRA advocated strongly for the bill, which addresses issues critical to maintaining a workforce that allows restaurants to continue to grow and create jobs. Advocacy efforts included events and op-eds by state restaurant associations and restaurateurs around the country, grassroots lobbying and regular meetings between NRA staff and key lawmakers. The association also launched a website dedicated to immigration reform advocacy campaign, www.AmericaWorksHere.org.

“America’s restaurants support common-sense immigration reform that meets three key priorities: a clear path to legalization, national implementation of the E-Verify employee verification system that preempts inconsistent state mandates, and increased border security that won’t harm legal travel and tourism,” said Scott DeFife, NRA executive vice president, policy and government affairs. “We commend the Senate on its work to address these important issues, and will continue to work with members of both chambers to advocate for policies that will allow the restaurant industry to continue its role as a leading jobs creator.”

The NRA’s advocacy continued through the final hours of debate. The NRA sent a letter—co-signed by the National Retail Federation, the American Hotel & Lodging Association, the International Franchise Association and the National Council of Chain Restaurants—urging the Senate to pass the immigration reform legislation. In a letter to senators, the associations said they would work with the senate to fix certain problematic components, like “unnecessary labor provisions that would encourage frivolous lawsuits while eviscerating sensible foreign exchange programs.”

“We support the framework of [the legislation] and strongly support several of its components, particularly ending de facto amnesty by legalizing most of the undocumented currently in the country,” the associations wrote in a letter to senators.

The NRA’s advocacy efforts will now shift to the House of Representatives, which is already considering legislation—the Legal Workforce Act—to implement E-Verify nationally. On Tuesday, the association sent a letter to the House Judiciary Committee asking members to oppose attempts to weaken language intended to preempt the patchwork of state and local laws on employment verification.

The Senate legislation was authored by Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Michael Bennett (D-Colo.).

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