U.S. immigration policy is broken and I want Congress to fix it . . .

November 28, 2007

US Immigration Policy Is Broken There's a saying in the United States, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."  Well, our U.S. immigration policy is broken, and I want Congress to fix it and get it done now.

If you've been reading my blog, you know I have pretty strong opinions about immigration policy and they're not always the most popular.  I expressed my opinion recently before American and Mexican business leaders at the American Chamber of Commerce in Mexico City.

Without hard-working, law-abiding immigrants to the United States - many who come from Mexico - the hospitality industry could not function.  It's just that simple.

Our company continues to support changes in the U.S. laws that not only create a path to legal status for immigrants, but also protect the integrity of our U.S. borders.

I think we all agree, reforming U.S. immigration policy is an urgent matter.  Congress has had a lot of time to work on it but there's still not a solution as both political parties continue to dig in their heels.

We had our best opportunity earlier this year but Congress couldn't agree.  Because of its failure, we're seeing the predictable result.  States and localities are taking matters into their own hands.  They're passing their own unique immigration laws.  While I can understand the frustration, it is not a workable, long-term solution.  We need a national approach toward immigration policy, and now we're just creating confusion.

Where does this leave us?  Well, when it comes to immigration, politics has trumped good policy because we're going into an election year.  Congress has an obligation to deal with the tough issues.  We shouldn't have to wait for a new president and new Congress to fix the broken system.

I'm Bill Marriott and thanks for helping me keep Marriott on the move.

US Immigration Policy Is Broken

The comments to this entry are closed.


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

I am a child of LEGAL immigrants. First hand I can say that immigrants add to the country. My mother is a nurse/hospital admin and my father was a bank VP. They came here, worked through college and worked to acheive citizenship. Haivng seen it in action it's not just the immigratio policy that needs fixed. The entire system is broken. The English test is pathetic, it's a kindergarden level; the American history questions a below grade school knowledge, and the bureaucracy is open to corruption at every step. Congress needs not only to look at the policy but also the process by which it is executed.

Thank you Bill. Please keep sending this message to Congress and other officials. Illegal immigration is an issue that affects us all. Many folks tend to get the issue confused with Legal immigration, which is much different. It is the Illegal immigration that has caused our country much concern.
Merry Christmas to you and your family.
Richard Robison, Warrenton, Virginia

Mr. Marriott, Apart from all the immigration policy topic, I think that one thing you should consider is to hire international people to work in the hotel. For example, I am a foreign student who graduated from a 4-yr American university with a degree in hospitality. I am currently on the Management Development Program at a hotel through the OPT Practical Training that is valid for 1 year. After that I will have to return home. I think that you should sponsor working visas to those that speak and know the American culture well if you are concerned with the staffing in the hospitality business. I have read different materials about sponsorship for visas on 4myhr but I don't understand why room operations, housekeeping managers are not qualified to get sponsored whereas specialty chefs, IT people, and accounting can be sponsored. Please consider this in the near future. Thank you!!

Thank you for being vocal about this issue. There are names that get heard and names that do not. Yours gets heard. I immigrated to the US in 1948 at the age of 7 with my family. I remember my parents attending citizenship classes, learning American English, studying American history and worrying about passing the test. We were told that we were not hyphenated Americans and swore alleigiance to the USA and to the flag. We came inside the quota and inside the system and forged a new life leaving England after World War II. I applaud immigration, industriousness and seeking a new life, but not runaway numbers of people skirty the system, overloading resources and refusing to adapt to life and language in a country offering hospitality and benefits. Please keep speaking loudly and Let's hope you are heard.

Bill, It sounds like you are saying the states should not address the problem because the federal goverment has faid to act on the will of the people. This is exactly why we have state governments.
God Bless America

Thank you for discussing the current immigration issues. There are many problems with the manner inwhich our country handles illegals from various countries. One of the problems lies with the naturalized citizen acceptance of babies being born in this country so the parents can have a free pass to live in the USA. No other country offers such a deal to visitors. Other countries accept the nationality of the parents as the same for the child who is born in a country other than where the parents precide.
Another issue is the illegals taking jobs from our teenagers and college students at the entry level for employment. The illegals in our country have created a situation where only part-time jobs are available to our youth and to our adult workers. The past generations of the USA have been able to acquire full-time jobs, even if temporary while schooling. Now, there are more part-time jobs even in government positions, than there are full-time jobs. This is due to the influx of so many illegals causing the workers to settle for less pay and fewer hours per week of work. Government has discovered that work can be divided into part-time jobs and save money by not suppling medical and dental care, and retirement benefits for the employees, thus cutting overhead for each employee. This method provides more money available for the padding of political coffers for those in charge of making the decisions for employment. This is evidenced by the very low unemployment figures nationwide. What does not make sense is that our unions, especially Teamsters, are supporting the illegals who can not afford to pay union dues; and are turning their backs on the members who are legal and pay dues. None of this makes any sense. Real reform needs to take place. As long as there is profit to the politicians, the illegals will remain as they are today, increasing each day without any control as to numbers. Remember, not all of the illegals are working, and not all the illegals are Mexican. Many are entering via Mexico from other countries including undesireable countries where peoples desire to kill Americans. All of us should take this seriously, it may be our lives and loved ones killed in the next attack. Remember, time is on our enemy's side, not ours. Our enemy works for years to develop and carry out their plans. Time and funding is not a problem for the enemy. They have all they need to accomplish their objectives.

I agree Congress needs to act and not leave it up to the states leaving 50 different solutions to the problem. We need to find a way. I am retired military and have been many places where the quality of live is less than appealing. I do not blame anyone for wanting to reach this land of opportunity to beter themsleves and to provide a better life for their loved ones. Human nature is to make a better life existence. People say, let them do it the legal way. If you have nothing and no means to provide for your family the current legal way is not an option, the only option many have is to come here illegally. I would do it and I know anyone of you who walked in their shoes would too. I am so sick of the political spin that is put on illegal immigration. Insurance companies raise prices and blame it on uninsured illegal immigrants. Cities complain about crime and blame it on illegal immigration. Schools get over crouded and it's because of illegal immigration. Immigration is here and is not going away. We cannot simply deport millions of people and expect them to wait until it's their turn. We can't blame all of our problesm on illegal immigrants. Our political leaders build up this hatred and fear of the strawman and in this case the strawman is illegal immigrants. This issue will never be solved until the people we elect stop putting their party first and the people second. On Capital Hill they are so afraid that one party is going to be credited for something good, the other party does everything in their power to keep it from happening. There is a solution to this and Congress needs to start holding corporations accountable to us as tax payers and to illegal immigrants and human beings in ensuring we find a fair comprimise. I've written my representative many times expressing my opinion and because it doesn't fall within thier party platform my emails and letters fall on deaf ears. I look for the day when we are not electing a person based on political affiliation whos loyalty is to the party or corporations. It seems they make their decisions not by following any morals or ethics but by allowing their desicion to be based on the priority of who is going to make the most money and who is going to lose the most. I know wishfull thinking. But it never stops me from praying that God will make it right. I have never seen our country so divided and I have lost all faith in our govenment. I only hope the next President realizes the precarious times are nation faces.

Kudos to Scott for working within the system for his citizenship, but 5 years is unreasonable. Changes have to be made to help the deserving people. I'm with these people every day, and have never seen harder workers. I have been a Marriott stockholder and customer for over 40 years and admire their operation.

Mr. Marriott,
I implore you, and every business corparation based in United States to hire ONLY LEGAL workers. And it should be a prerequisite for those whom you employ within the UNITED STATES to speak & understand ENGLISH.

I read with interest your strong opinion regarding imigration policy. What you fail to qualify, however, is whether you refer to immigrants who follow the process for legal entry into this great country, or ILLEGAL ALIENS who break the law to get here. But I think I can read between the lines.
Unfortunately, you take the position that the hospitality industry would not survive without these workers. Again, I'm assuming you mean those who break our laws so that can enter this country to earn cheap labor. This problem is much bigger than the hospitality industry and whether it can survive and stsill pay fair wages to legal workers. It's about the future of our country. As a small business, independent owner - I pay a substantial FICA tax annually in addition to all the others - Federal, State, Sales, Property, School, and on and on. Can you shed some light on what those who are in our country illegally pay? I can tell you - ZERO!!
Yet do they benefit from taxpayer monies, such as those we allocate to education and emergency care? I dare say YES. Like those in the entertainment business, it's not our business what their positions nor yours' are. Yet you people continue to espouse your views. The Marriott provides a service that I enjoy when I travel. I could anticipate quality and consistency in your hotels. I always chose Marriott whenever possible. Unfortunately, you've marred my opinion of your establishment by feeling the need to express your views, which customer base did not solicit. Shame on you. As an American, you are entitled to express them; as a business executive it's a turn off.

Bill, I suppose that you also argue that the federal minimum wage should also be increased? People in the comments section of this blog are quick to say, They fill the jobs that the rest of us don't want. But why do we not want them? The simple fact is that the cost of living - housing, utilities, GASOLINE, travel expenses, INSURANCE - in this country are rising with each passing day. Simply put, a family cannot survive with one single parent making $6, or even $7, an hour... or even both parents making that! I am all for relaxed immigration policy, particularly with Hispanics who are some of the HARDEST WORKERS in the world... but you can't stop at that. The U.S. economy is in shambles right now because the big businesses are controlling all the liquid cash and not passing it back on to the consumer base (their employees). What business leaders don't understand is that increasing benefits to their employees will actually lead to a slower, but more stable and sustainable, growth in prosperity for everyone via increased spending in the market. Let in all the immigrants you want to... but the bottom line is THAT is not the problem in our country right now.

I really appreciate all your opinions on current issues. I am a member of the Sierra Club and really like the idea of doing away with plastic and styrofoam at your hotels and restaurants. Whole Foods has the right idea. Put food in biodegradable cardboard containers.

Immigration is obviously an emotional issue and, as Mr. Marriott has noted in his blog post, it has unfortunately become a highly sensitive political issue as well. Personally, I am in the process of becoming a legal permanent resident of the U.S. I have been following the proper legal channels for over 5 years now and although the end is in sight, the process has been extremely frustrating, taken countless hours and involved considerable cost. The system is broken and needs to be fixed.
Some of the comments contained in this blog are extremely disappointing. Perhaps some of these folks should consider that this country was built by immigrants. Immigration brought YOUR ancestors here - likely within the last 100 to 200 years. Why are you more American than a first generation immigrant?
An American can be English, or French, or Italian, Irish, German, Spanish, Polish, Russian or Greek. An American can be Mexican, African, Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Australian, Iranian, Asian, Arab, Pakistani or Afghan. An American may also be a Cree, Metis, Mohawk, Blackfoot, Sioux, or one of the many other tribes known as Native American. An American's religious beliefs range from Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, Muslim, Hindu or none. In fact, there are more Muslims in the United States than in Afghanistan. The key difference is that in America they are free to worship as each of them chooses. Whether they have a religion or no religion, each American ultimately answers only to God, not to the government, or to armed thugs claiming to speak for the government and for God.
An American lives in one of the most prosperous lands in the history of the world. The root of that prosperity can be found in the Bill of Rights which recognizes freedom of religion, speech (without reference to speaking English), and the right of each person to the pursuit of happiness. Americans are not a particular people from a particular place. They are the embodiment of the human spirit of freedom. Everyone who holds to that spirit, everywhere, should have the opportunity to become an (legal) American. Your ancestors did.

Mr Marriott, I own two hotels competitors of your brands. I read your blogs on a weekly basis. I feel I learn from your experience everytime I read. I do not feel nor have I seen proof that you hire illeagals any more than I would knowingly. This is a tough issue facing the US and I for one do not have the answer other than inforcing the pollicies we already have.

As a business leader I encourage you to continue to push the President and congress to pass legislation that solves these issues. I fully support people coming to this country and would support higher numbers for people to come here as long as we document who is coming into this country.

I am shocked at the reactions of so many of our citizens to this issue, just look around, who's doing the entry level jobs today?? I don't want to nor do you, but these people are gratefull for a chance to'get ahead'. Same as many of our ancestors. The system has to be fixed to allow them to stay for a period of time to proove their desire to be productive workers, and them open a path to full citizenship, they key here is productive, no slackers or welfare abusers. Thanks for your public stand on this issue.

After reading the responses, I had to go back and reread Mr Marriott's post to see what I missed. Some of the responses seem to be emotional reactions to what the reader THINKS Mr Marriott meant, while others are simply mean-spirited. The fact that an immigrant doesn't speak English doesn't mean they aren't struggling to learn the language, for instance, nor does it mean they are here illegally. And I'm pretty sure there are some US-born workers who might forget to clean a glass occasionally. There's a telephone in the room - call Housekeeping and they'll bring you a clean glass with a smile and an apology. Talk about entitlement issues! I have stayed in many Marriott properties in the US and abroad over the last 20 years and have never had a problem that wasn't addressed promptly and to my satisfaction.
This is my first time on this blog, so I missed any previous discussion on this issue, but I am hard pressed to say exactly what Mr Marriott's position is from his post. He says the current immigration law is broken and he supports changes in the U.S. laws that not only create a path to legal status for immigrants, but also protect the integrity of our U.S. borders. That's a pretty good politically-correct sound bit in itself, but what does it mean? It could be argued that a path to legal status already exists, albeit a difficult one. What are the problems you think exist with current laws and what specific actions do you think Congress should take to address them?

Mr. Marriot,
I spent a career with the former US Immigration & Naturalization Service (USINS) and all I can say is the USINS and the current US Customs & Border Protection are puppets of congress. Congress has it's priorities which are their constituents, the chicken farms, cattle operations and anyone that greases their palms (is that called corruption?). That's been going on for over half a century and it is not going to change. In the last Immigration reform of 1986, Congress set up legalization and employer sanction laws but did not fund the enforcement (resources) of the sanctions laws. So the laws they passed were toothless. I predict they (Congress) will do it again.

In reading the comments about your Immigrant viewpoint, I wonder how proactive the Marriott corporation is to insure that the people you hire have a legal right to work in the US. Where I am staying now, not one of the hospitality staff speaks English.

Immigration: Amenisty should not be part of the debate but how to deal with 12 million + people. I suggest non-residents register at the US Post office, giving name and home of nationality. They could be given an identification card that allows them to work. Once a month they would go to the Post Office and swipe their card. That way there is a record of where they are at that time. They should also be allowed to drive on the driver's license from their home country and not need a US license. US citizens drive all over the world on our own state issued driver's license. I know this is simple and will not fix all the problems.

Mr. Marriott,
I would like to thank you for stepping up and having your voice heard. I believe you are right we need to look at the entire immigration situation. This county has such diversity because of the immigrants who came here. Ellis Island is proof that at one time we had a system to provide for checks and balances for new people to this country. The individuals had to have medical test and a place to live before being released. This holds true when we travel to other countries as well, so I think we owe it to the founding fathers and to the future of our country to revisit our immigrantion rules and guidelines. With health care being such a major subject of debate I would think we would want everyone entering the country to have updated shots, to protect them as well as those they will come in contact with. We are all very aware that many illness do not start out in this country and we need to be proactive about this issue. The issue of housing is exteremly important all immigrants should have a legal mailing address,as well as a legal passport. This is a great country and we should share what we have. All immigrants should share the same responsibilities to the states and us government as I do. They are here to enjoy this wonderful land and when the immigrants are legal residents then they should carry the tax load as well.

Like the bedbug, rearing its ugly heads in this country, we need to find a way to rid the country of this pestilence called illegal immigrants. Overlooking the obvious that they are here illegally, we have to look at the other costs, such as schools and healthcare. Let us also consider our own health. A simple comparison of the CDC website for Hepatitis against the cities with increased immigration, will show a surprising parallel. Having had to report to Marriott management on multiple occasions that housekeeping was not removing soiled glasses to be properly cleaned, makes me wonder what else is not being done properly by these workers from a Third World country.

You are correct, Mr. Marriott.
The operable word in this debate is legal immigrant. I think we can all agree on that. And while I also agree that the hosptality industry greatly relies on that demographic, the same could be said about agriculture, transportation, or any other number of diciplines.
However, the uncontrolled exodus of persons crossing our southern border has become a national security issue and if left as is any longer, will be the reason we won't travel and vacation as much due to safety and security reasons. I, for one, applaud local governments for being pro-active in this issue. Maybe the Fed will wake up and be forced into treating this as an historical opportunity instead of a election campaign pro / con. Our children and grandchildren deserve better.

In regards to your article about our immigration system being broken and in need of repair I must take issue with your statement in the article that without hard working legal immigrants the hospitality industry could not function. If either INS or the Marriott's personnel departments conducted a verification of how many of the immigrants working for Marriott hotels more of them would be illegal than legal.

I couldn't agree more, but is there anything that those of us in the business world can do to get the politicos to listen? I heard the Republicans debate the other night and it seemed like one after the other tried to trump the previous candidate about how opposed they were to immigrants of any kind or type.
All of us are descendants of immigrants. We all need the help and vitality that immigration provides. We work in the agriculture sector and have wonderful people who would like to work and cannot solve the immigration process. What can we do to stimulate change?