Restaurants are the cornerstone of every community. Many generations of immigrant families have brought the best of their traditions and cultures to our family table and provide a vital role in the restaurant industry. The industry continues to be a home for immigrants from all over the world seeking to build a new life and achieve the American Dream. The relationship benefits both sides: Immigrants gain valuable job experience and immediate access to new opportunities, and restaurateurs can fill positions at every level.

Over the next decade, restaurants are projected to create more jobs than the U.S.-born workforce can fill. The industry is expected to add 1.8 million positions over the next decade, a 14 percent increase in the industry’s workforce. However, the U.S.-born workforce is expected to grow by just 10 percent over the same period. As such, the National Restaurant Association supports commonsense immigration reforms that expand U.S. employers’ ability to hire a legal workforce.

Our principles for immigration reform include the following:

  • Secure the border and promote legitimate travel and tourism. The United States needs stronger security at its borders. However, any steps to increase security should also facilitate travel and tourism to the United States. Travel and tourism drives approximately one-fifth of all restaurant sales and boosts economic activity across all sectors.
  • Provide a pathway to legalization. More than 11 million undocumented individuals are living and working in the United States. Many are paying taxes and contributing to the economy and their communities. Numerous polls show that the public strongly supports a clear path to legalization for these workers. Restaurants support this too.
  • Create a viable essential worker program to meet workforce needs. Immigrants play a key role in the restaurant industry’s growth and diversity. We support a new program that would legally match willing workers with willing employers -- a viable year-round temporary worker visa program for the service sector. Such a program would play a key role in addressing the workforce needs of restaurants and other hospitality employers. It is time to create a visa program that allows legal foreign-born workers to come into the United States under a controlled process to work year-round.
  • Implement a reliable and efficient federal employment verification program. Many states and localities have passed their own employment verification laws. This patchwork of laws creates an untenable system by forcing restaurants and other employers to comply with different laws across multiple jurisdictions. The Association supports a consistent national standard that helps employers hire in a timely, efficient and respectful manner. Employers should not be held liable or face penalties if they use and rely on a national verification system in good faith, and should be given an adequate opportunity to rectify errors.
Policy Brief