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Issues & Advocacy

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Immigration reform

The issue

The U.S. immigration system is broken. Lawmakers from both political parties acknowledge the problems, but have been unable to move forward. The Senate voted for comprehensive immigration reform in July 2013. This was an important first step. Now the House needs to act.

Why it matters to restaurants

  • The restaurant industry has long been a place for people of every background and culture to work toward the American Dream. From the nation's start, restaurants have reflected the rich diversity of the American people. At all levels, from owners to chefs to managers and employees, no industry embraces the diversity of the nation the way the restaurant industry does.
  • Restaurants, like many other American industries, depend on immigrants to fill positions that are critical to restaurants' ability to operate and expand.
  • Across America, businesses from a wide spectrum of industries, including education, science, engineering, medicine, hospitality and manufacturing, report having difficulty filling important positions.
  • Over the next decade, the restaurant industry is expected to add 1.8 million positions, a 14 percent increase in the industry's workforce. But the native-born U.S. workforce is expected to grow by just 10 percent over this time, and the percentage of 16- to 24-year-olds entering the workforce—an important source of restaurant employees—isn’t expected to grow at all. Without meaningful immigration reform, many restaurants and other businesses will be unable to keep up with the growing demand for their goods and services. Overall economic growth will slow and fewer jobs will be created.

NRA position

The National Restaurant Association has long advocated for sensible immigration reforms that will provide certainty to employers and employees, with a path to legal status. These reforms include:

  • A clear path to legalization. The current U.S. immigration system targets otherwise law-abiding individuals who are working and contributing to the economy and their communities. It’s time to move beyond an enforcement-only approach to include a path to legalization for the nation's undocumented workers.
  • A simple, reliable federal employment verification system. Restaurants, like all employers, are responsible for taking steps to ensure that the employees they hire are legally allowed to work in the United States. E-Verify, the online federal verification system, is voluntary under federal law, but many states have made it mandatory for at least some businesses. The patchwork of state rules makes compliance difficult, particularly for businesses that operate multiple locations in different states. The National Restaurant Association supports a consistent national standard that helps employers hire in a timely, efficient and respecteful manner and that holds employers harmless for actions they take in good faith based on information provided by the system.
  • Improved border security that promotes travel and tourism. Travel and tourism are important economic drivers and responsible for about one-fifth of all restaurant sales. While immigration reform should include steps to prevent illegal U.S. border crossings and improve overall border security, those steps should not get in the way of legitimate travel and tourism.

The NRA supports the comprehensive immigration bill the Senate passed in July 2013, and encourages the House to move forward with similar reforms. Among the pending House bills is the Legal Workforce Act, H.R. 1772, which calls for the mandatory national use of E-Verify, phased in over time. The National Restaurant Association supports the legislation.

Contacts: Angelo Amador, Ryan Kearney


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