HomeTop StoriesThe hospitality industry wants to make it easier to employ migrants

The hospitality industry wants to make it easier to employ migrants

CHICAGO (CBS) – “Revenge travel” continues to rise. Americans are booking travel left and right thanks to a burning desire to leave their homes after the pandemic.

What’s not so hot is what goes on behind the scenes at hotels. Lauren Victory of CBS 2 reported on a recruiting solution the industry is pushing for and how it could affect your taxes.

Summer is flying by and the number of check-ins at London House is skyrocketing. The hotel is thriving in the front but hurts in the back.

“It’s a perfect storm of the highest levels of business we’ve ever seen, but a shortage of workers across the city,” said Juan Leyva, general manager of the London House.

Leyva filled out CBS 2 about job openings at the hotel. The kitchen in particular needs help, at least five to ten employees.

“Dishwashers, barbacks, stewards, cooks, novice cooks,” Leyva explained.

The crew does their best, but fewer workers inside can mean longer wait times outside for food and drink.

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Leyva said other Chicago hotels are struggling to hire people for housekeeping duties. If only some rooms are cleaned, not all rooms may be available. That means lost hotel revenue and less hotel taxes for the city.

CBS 2 spoke to Chip Rogers of the American Hotel and Lodging Association who wants to recruit from a very specific pool of people: asylum seekers.

Thousands have arrived in Chicago by bus over the past year and have slept in police stations and pop-up shelters. Many came with little money. A job can get them back on their feet and get rid of the city’s pennies.

victory: “Why do you think an asylum seeker would want to work in the hotel industry?”

Rogers“Well, we know they do because we’ve talked to them, and we’ve talked to hotels that actually host asylum seekers who say they want to work at the hotel they’re staying at.”

The Department of Justice gives asylum seekers “permanent permission to live and work in the United States”. The problem is that federal law says they can’t start a gig right away.

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There is a waiting period of at least six months for entry into service.

A nonprofit’s video explaining the timeline has been viewed more than 17,000 times on YouTube. The hotel association is lobbying to speed up the process for asylum seekers to get a work permit.

“They have to come through a legal gateway,” Rogers said. “They have to do it the right way, but if they’re willing to do that, and there are job openings for them, we don’t think they have to wait six months.”

They are proposing a 30-day deferment instead of the 180 days in the Asylum Seeker Worker Authorization Act of 2023.

“It would solve part of a bigger problem,” Rogers said. “It concerns about 2 million asylum seekers. It is clear that not all of them will work for the hotel industry, but many will.”

Proponents argue the proposal would be a win for Chicago migrants and for local hotels reporting more than 2,100 job openings.

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“We’ve had to compete with other industries,” Leyva said.

Leyva often shares his personal story of once being an undocumented hotel worker as part of his pitch.

“I went from a car park attendant to a front desk clerk, supervisor, manager, director and now the managing director of London House.”

It is a success story that he hopes other migrant families can repeat one day.

The wages of hotel employees are unprecedentedly high. Wages for entry-level positions, including one at London House, start around $24 an hour.

The bill to shorten the waiting times for asylum seekers to obtain a work permit has not yet yielded much. The congress currently has a summer program.

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