An important issue for our industry
Many workers, owners and managers in foodservice are immigrants, which makes immigration reform an important issue for our industry. The National Restaurant Association is asking Congress to approve comprehensive immigration reform, which would both strengthen border security and create a path to citizenship for undocumented workers. For the past several years, Wisconsin Restaurant Association members and government relations staff have lobbied Wisconsin's U.S. Representatives and Senators in Washington D.C. on this issue.
WRA’s President & CEO wrote this editorial column to major media outlets in Wisconsin in support of the NRA’s efforts:
It’s Time to Enact Comprehensive Immigration Reform
The National Restaurant Association and the Wisconsin Restaurant Association have been working on the issue of immigration reform for over a decade. But since the 2012 elections, public opinion has shifted dramatically in favor of this effort. As a result, elected officials from both political parties seem to be working toward a bipartisan solution and we support their efforts.
In 1986, President Reagan signed an immigration reform bill that made people that entered the country illegally eligible for “amnesty” and, as Reagan said in his farewell address to the nation, “I’ve spoken of the shining city all my political life…in my mind it was a tall, proud city built on rocks stronger than oceans, windswept, God-blessed, and teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace; a city with free ports that hummed with commerce and creativity. And if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here. That’s how I saw it, and see it still.”
Immigrants made this country. Almost all of us are either immigrants or descendants of immigrants. Some had wealth and fame. Others came to escape political or religious persecution. Some were criminals fleeing from the law and some were convicted criminals sent here in exile. Most came for a fresh start after financial ruin.
Immigrant employees are employed by the hospitality and other economically important Wisconsin industries because of their work ethic and reliability. They are generally willing to start in entry level positions and work hard while pursuing the American Dream.
Immigrants have always gravitated towards the restaurant industry. Jobs are plentiful, hard work is rewarded and restaurants are great places to learn our language and customs. Many, many first and second generation immigrants end up owning or managing restaurants.
The vast majority of those benefiting from Reagan’s immigration reform bill have become upstanding, contributing members of society. Many of those people got their start and/or found a home in the restaurant industry.
What our industry wants is a verification system that is reliable and will protect us from liability for unknowingly hiring someone who is illegal. We strongly support a “Guest Worker” program that will allow undocumented workers that are here now to be able to identify themselves and legally stay here. We do not want families split up. We do support securing the border, but we also support a path to citizenship for those that are here and want it.
Let’s recall what is written on the Statue of Liberty: “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” Is it any wonder people from every nation and circumstance want to come here?
We need to move forward with open arms and welcome those who have harkened to the call that is America.