On Sept. 5, 2017, 100,000 young Americans headed to local restaurants where they work as servers, chefs, managers and operators. It should have been like any other day, but on that day, the Trump Administration announced an end date for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA).
That decision triggered a national debate over the status of 800,000 “Dreamers,” brought here by their immigrant parents. On April 24, a federal judge rejected the administration’s justification for ending the DACA program and created a timetable for the program’s renewal.
The National Restaurant Association supports DACA recipients’ quest to remain in the United States. Here, Cicely Simpson, our executive vice president of public affairs, outlines why we are urging Congress and the Administration to find a solution that provides a lawful path to their permanent residency.
The ask: The National Restaurant Association ‑‑ and businesses across our country ‑‑ are standing with DACA recipients, and urging Congress and the White House to find a solution that avoids the economic damage that would result from a mass deportation of these young people.
Why it’s important: Our restaurants’ DACA-eligible employees are hard-working young people, paying their way through school or pursuing careers. Their co-workers and customers depend on them to provide an excellent dining experience. That teamwork defies distinctions based on immigration status or political perspective and is the engine that keeps our industry moving forward. We know that these people are our greatest asset.
Where we stand: A recent survey conducted by Morning Consult confirmed that Americans on both sides of the aisle agree on the need for common-sense immigration reforms. The majority support extending temporary worker visas to employees in the restaurant and hospitality industries, as well as identifying a clear path to citizenship. Two in three Americans agree that restaurant employment gives immigrants an opportunity to gain valuable skills and fill a need in our industry.
How it affects our industry’s future: Restaurants across the country are expected to add 1.8 million jobs over the next decade — a 14 percent increase. Over the same period, the U.S.-born workforce is projected to grow just 10 percent. Our immigrant and DACA-eligible employees help us meet the needs of a fast-growing industry, strengthen our economy and help restaurants better serve their customers.
What our lawmakers need to do: Finding a permanent DACA solution is Congress’s most pressing responsibility. We also need comprehensive immigration reform that ensures Dreamers can continue living in this country and fulfill vital roles in our economy. Immigration reform starts with a secure border, but we … also need a clear path to legalization for the more than 11 million undocumented people in America. These individuals often pay taxes and contribute to their communities, but live in fear of deportation.
Why diversity is important: Our industry’s workforce reflects the diversity that makes our country great. It is the fabric of America. Today, 45 percent of restaurant chefs are foreign-born, as are 24 percent of restaurant managers. Legal immigrants are major contributors to America’s restaurants, often climbing the ranks to open their own restaurants and create even more jobs.
Fixing our broken immigration system won’t be easy, but restaurants and their foreign-born employees are depending on Congress to pass responsible reforms and for the Administration to support them.
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