Front Desk

Why immigration reform matters

It doesn't matter how you personally feel about immigrants—legal or illegal—as a hotel industry professional you need to pay close attention to the raging debate in Washington and on the streets of America over immigration reform. For hoteliers, it's not a question of right or wrong; it's an economic issue.

Equitable or not, legal or not, immigrants—particularly from south of the border but also from Asia, Europe and Africa—make up a large portion of the hotel workforce and mostly in line-level jobs. Often, and in some hotels nearly always, these are jobs that are difficult to fill with anyone—citizens, legal immigrants, illegal immigrants.

Should Congress decide to further criminalize illegal immigrants or as some zealots advocate, round them up and ship them back home, the labor situation for hotels and other service businesses will only worsen. And, of course, a smaller employment pool nearly always means you'll need to pay more for those candidates you can find, even if they have inferior work credentials.

Another thing to consider: The hotel industry labor shortage isnâ€â„¢t confined to housekeepers and wait staff. Many properties have a hard time finding quality candidates to hire or promote to department manager, assistant manager or even GM jobs. In my years in this business, I've encountered a few mediocre to downright incompetent general managers. Perhaps an influx of immigrants hungry to achieve the American Dream might help owners find better help from top to bottom in their hotels.

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