As one of the nation’s largest employers of legal guest workers, the hotel and lodging industry intuitively understands that a global workforce is essential to our business. Countless lodging businesses and resorts rely on highly vetted guest workers, including seasonal workers, to meet workforce demands, yet many of the programs that enable those workers to be employed in the United States are now at risk.
The President and his administration have taken several actions that impact immigration and legal work visa programs. These actions are of great concern to our industry and could have a long-lasting, negative impact on the future of our workforce. In October 2017, the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA) brought a message to Washington with the goal of protecting the industry and its vibrant workforce.
Representatives from several AHLA-member properties flew to Washington, D.C., on October 4, 2017, to meet with officials at the White House, the Department of Labor, and key Congressional offices. The meetings focused on the importance of seasonal guest worker programs to our industry.
AHLA members explained that they always make every attempt to first hire American workers before resorting to legal guest visa programs. They also informed lawmakers about the critical role legal guest workers play in helping to meet peak-season demands. These workers enable our industry to run at full capacity, which in turn protects millions of full-time American jobs.
On April 18, the administration issued an Executive Order entitled “Buy American, Hire American,” which is designed to “bolster protections for certain American-made goods and calls for a review of certain established legal visa work programs.” This order has been the basis for a number of concerning administrative actions and rumored activity surrounding immigration policies and legal work visa programs.
AHLA is actively engaged with lawmakers on Capitol Hill and within the administration to identify solutions to these incredibly challenging policy issues. For example, we are working with the broader employer community to urge Congress to maintain work eligibility for 800,000 at-risk workers. We are working closely with the American Immigration Council to ensure temporary protections for workers who could find their lives in jeopardy back in their own country; and we are partnering with the Alliance for Cultural Exchange to educate Congress about the importance of J1 visas and the value of the program in helping to meet the demand for summer workers.
And, as co-chair of the H-2B Workforce Coalition—an alliance of more than 40 associations focused on protecting American workers by ensuring that small and seasonal employers have access to legal short-term temporary employees during peak business periods—we are educating members of Congress, their staff, and administration officials about the need for comprehensive, bipartisan reform to this important program. Not only does this program help many American businesses meet their critical workforce needs, but in some cases, it prevents early business closures during their peak season. AHLA has long recognized the importance of finding the balance between a steadfast hospitality industry and strong national security.
This industry offers many pathways to achieving the American Dream—providing endless opportunities for upward mobility, fast-track promotions, and workforce flexibility. It’s what makes our industry so unique and why so many find a lasting career. Our employees are the heart and soul of our industry, and we have the privilege of witnessing the economic and social value they provide every day. AHLA will continue working with Congress and the administration to improve legal guest worker programs and encourage a thoughtful, balanced, and comprehensive approach to reforming our nation’s immigration policy.
About the Author
Brian Crawford is senior vice president of government affairs at AHLA.