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National Restaurant Association - It’s time to contact Congress on immigration reform

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It’s time to contact Congress on immigration reform

The immigration debate has hit a critical phase -- and restaurateurs are gearing up to make a difference as a bipartisan reform bill moves to the Senate floor for debate.

Debate began in the Senate this week on a comprehensive reform bill authored by the bipartisan “Gang of Eight” senators.

The bill contains three key National Restaurant Association priorities: a clear path to legalization, national implementation of the E-Verify employee verification system, and increased border security that won’t harm legal travel and tourism. A vote on the bill could come before the Senate recesses on June 28.

With a vote imminent -- and the nation bordering on its first real opportunity in decades to make meaningful, bipartisan reforms to a broken system -- the NRA is ramping up its efforts to support comprehensive immigration reform. 

The NRA is calling on its members to meet, write, or call their lawmakers this month to urge support for bipartisan changes that meet the needs of American businesses and the people they employ. The NRA’s campaign includes a dedicated online resource to keep members informed about the latest developments and put them in touch with members of Congress so they can voice their support for immigration reform. The site is www.AmericaWorksHere.org/Immigration.

Restaurateurs are also organizing at the state level. In South Carolina, the South Carolina Restaurant and Lodging Association will hold a press conference Thursday that will focus on the business community’s support for and economic benefits of comprehensive immigration reform. Ruben Montalvo, an immigrant from Mexico who owns Cantinflas Restaurant and Bar in Greenville, S.C., will be a featured speaker. Montalvo came to Boston from Mexico in 1986 on a work visa when he was employed by Gillette. After earning an MBA from Harvard Business School, he left his engineering job and decided to become an entrepreneur. He opened Cantinflas, which currently employs 15 people, in 1994.

“At the time, I thought I’d be here for a year,” Montalvo said. “I am a living example of what can happen when immigrants are given the same opportunities as everyone else. I see similar labor challenges in my other businesses outside the hospitality industry.” Montalvo also owns Montalvo International, a transport company with five employees, and RRM & Daughters, a real estate company with two employees.

The Greenville News published a lengthy profile of Montalvo last year.

“If we did not have the job openings and the demand for labor, these employees would go to Canada or somewhere else,” Montalvo said. “It’s important for employers to be heard on this issue, because we are the ones who see that need for workers.”

The NRA has advocated for comprehensive immigration reform for years. Over the course of the current debate, the NRA has remained in close contact with the senators who authored the bill and the White House. The Association will continue working to strengthen its key legislative priorities, which are:

  • A pathway to permanent legalization. The NRA believes that productive members of society must be able to work and live in the U.S. in a manner that de-criminalizes and de-politicizes the process and the people.
     
  • A national employment verification system. The current patchwork of state and local immigration laws -- sometimes inconsistent with each other -- exposes employers to unfair liability and an untenable regulatory structure. A more workable E-Verify system would allow restaurant operators to treat prospective employees with respect and manage the application process in a timely and efficient manner. Many in the restaurant industry supported the “Legal Workforce Act” in the last Congress as a model employment verification system. The Legal Workforce Act has recently been re-introduced in the House of Representatives.
     
  • Improved border security that encourages legal travel and tourism. Immigration reform must include measures to improve both border security and opportunities for U.S. businesses to encourage legitimate travel and tourism.

“The restaurant industry is an industry of tremendous opportunity, with a workforce of more than 13 million employees that is reflective of America’s diversity,” said Scott DeFife, the Association's executive vice president for policy and government affairs. “The National Restaurant Association has worked with the Senate’s bipartisan ‘Gang of Eight,’ the Administration, and key House stakeholders on sensible reforms to fix the nation’s broken immigration system. We urge both chambers to continue to move forward and address these important issues.”

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