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Hospitality Group Urges Key Immigration Reform 3.8.2006

By C.M. Mattessich

The American Hotel and Lodging Association (AH&LA) and the National Restaurant Association (NRA) have joined forces to urge Congress to enact comprehensive immigration reform.  In recent weeks, the coalition sent a petition letter to all U.S. Senators.
“We are facing a mounting labor shortage, and it is being felt in every congressional district across the country,” said AH&LA Executive Vice President for Public Policy Marlene Colucci.  “Personal service is the lifeblood of the lodging industry.  Unlike jobs in other sectors of the economy, these positions cannot be automated and cannot be outsourced.  Hiring workers to fill critical service positions is one of the industry’s most urgent issues.”
In its letter, the coalition stated that any viable immigration proposal must accomplish three objectives: strengthen national security, reinforce the rule of law, and address the current and future labor requirements of our economy.
While the group stressed that immigration policy should ensure that U.S. workers are not displaced by foreign-born workers, it noted that “after decades of efforts to encourage native-born Americans to consider careers in the hospitality industry, we are faced with the reality that foreign-born workers are necessary to help fill the jobs where no Americans are available.”
The group criticized pending legislation as “focusing only on border and interior enforcement and missing the larger issue.”
The letter also noted industry statistics.  As the third largest retail industry in the United States, in 2004 the travel and tourism industry provided 7.3 million jobs and generated $163.3 billion in payroll dollars.  According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the lodging industry employed nearly 1.8 million people in 2004. BLS projects 16.4 percent growth in the lodging sector, resulting in the need for an additional 300,000 employees by 2014.

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