Hiring of Illegal Aliens in the Hospitality Industry


The issue of hiring illegal aliens in the United States hospitality industry has generated heated debates in the recent years. As of January 2011, the estimated number of 11.5 million illegal aliens was living in the US. This issue has attracted the attention of both the supporters and the critics mainly because of the pros and cons associated with it. Particularly, powerful interest groups would be affected by the changes of the laws governing the hiring illegal aliens in the industry. Some scholars contend that the benefits of illegal alien workers in the hospitality sphere are realized by one major interest group: the employers. In light of this, there have been media reports that the employers in the hospitality industry often exploit illegal alien workers by paying them less than other employees.

In contrast, the greatest losers are legitimate workers in the United States who have to compete for the available jobs in the area with illegal alien workers. The employees tend to employ illegal aliens at the expense of legitimate employees in order to benefit from cheap labor. It is also argued that the US government could also be losing revenue since most of illegal alien workers do not pay taxes. Moreover, some media reports have claimed that they are generally associated with criminal activities in the country. Thus, the decisions regarding the issue of illegal immigrant workers in the hospitality industry should be based on weighing the benefits and tradeoffs associated with such employees. However, this area in the United States is under intense pressure due to a dramatic shift in the governments strategy to enforce the current illegal immigration law. This paper will discuss the legal issues of hiring illegal aliens in the United States hospitality industry.

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History of the US Laws on Immigration and the Hiring of Illegal Aliens in General and Specifically with Respect to the Hospitality Industry

Immigration in the United States has a long history as well as profound impacts on immigrants. Both the colonial society in the US and the independent country have been shaped by a wave of immigration of aliens from various states across the world. The early alien immigrants to the colonial United States sought political freedom as well as economic opportunities. They usually originated from Germany, France, and England, as well as the northwestern European countries. As such, this wave of immigrants resulted in the changes in the US immigration policies. However, there were neither numerical restrictions nor central regulations of these people until after several decades since the nation was founded.

The US Constitution was enforced in the year 1787. It has some provisions that obliges the Congress develop the necessary laws regarding neutralization. Pursuant to the power granted to this body by the US Constitution, the Congress enacted the first law regarding neutralization in 1790. This law is commonly referred to as the Naturalization Act of 1770. It was a uniform rule that required that free white persons living in the United States for two years or more should become the US citizens. The law allowed white individuals who had lived the country for 2 years and were of a good character to apply for citizenship. In 1795, the US Congress made amendments to the Naturalization Act of 1790 that extended the minimum residency period to 5 year. It was lengthened in 1798 to 14 years due to the rising xenophobia in the country. Several years later, the residency requirement was again reduced to 5 years. In 1819, the Congress passed the so-called Steerage Act that required ship captains carrying aliens to submit manifests containing the information regarding these individuals onboard to the Congress, the secretary of state, and the Collector of Customs.

In general, between the 1875 and 1920, the US had experienced a centralized control of immigrants. It was the time the first exclusion laws were passed. In 1875, the federal act was enacted that excluded an undesirable class of immigrants from applying for citizenship in the country. In this regard, these groups were excepted from naturalization included coolies (Chinese contract laborers), prostitutes, and targeted criminals. Furthermore, the 1872 Chinese Exclusion Act not only banned the immigration of Chinese laborers but also barred all Chinese immigrants in the country from applying for citizenship. In particular, the act required that the Chinese illegal immigrants to be deported to their state. The other act that was enacted in the year 1882 increased the classes of individuals to be excluded from applying for naturalization. It included the lunatics and the individuals who were incapable of supporting themselves economically.

In 1862, the federal passed the Act that mandated that the Commissioner of Immigration must be appointed by the US president. This regulation was meant to enhance central control of the issue of immigration into the United States. However, this Act was revoked several years later. The most comprehensive immigration law that achieved a greater success is the 1891 Immigration Act. The regulation resulted in the establishment of the Bureau of Immigration and provided for the deportation of unlawful immigrants in the country. Additionally, the Act also classified people suffering from contagious diseases and polygamists as inadmissible aliens.

As the years passed, the US immigration laws increased the central control of immigrants and the list of inadmissible aliens. Scholars argue that such regulations were marked by racist bias against southeastern Europeans as well as Asians. In 1903, the Congress enacted the so-called Anarchist Exclusion Act which banned both anarchists as well as other political extremists against immigrating into the US It is regarded to be the first law in the country to ban potential immigrants based on their political affiliations and beliefs. Moreover, the 1907 Immigration Act provided for the exclusion of feeble-minded individuals, imbeciles, as well as people suffering from mental or physical disabilities. Similarly, the law also provided for the exclusion of the persons with the criminal history, unaccompanied children, and people suffering from tuberculosis. The 1917 Immigration Act outlined the prohibited areas for Asian pacific nations. However, it is worth noting that there was an increased immigration into the United States despite the proliferation of regulations against immigration.

On the other hand, the 1921 Quota Law imposed numerical restrictions on immigrants, limiting it to a maximum of approximately 350,000 immigrants per annum. Similarly, the regulation also restricted the number of such individuals from certain countries. This kind of restriction favored the northwestern European immigrants. However, some countries were exempted from the Quota Law including the Caribbean countries, Latin American states, and Canada. The 1924 National Origins Act further reduced the total number of immigrants to approximately 165,000 annually. During the Second World War, immigration laws in the United States were characterized by contradictor tendencies. In this regard, these regulations expanded the exclusionary measures based on political grounds. They were also characterized by increasing anti-Japanese sentiments while relaxing the restrictions imposed against immigrants from other Asian countries. In particular, the 1940 Alien Registration Act provided for a finger printing and registration of all immigrating persons above the age of 14 years. Additionally, the Act also required the exclusion as well as deportation of individuals who were the members of prohibited political parties.

The Second World War caused a severe shortage of labor force in the United States, especially in the agricultural sector. The reason is related to the native-born Americans that were deployed in the armed forces and some were working in factories that were mobilized for the war effort. In response, the government introduced a program aimed at importing workers from Mexico in 1942. The McCarran-Walter Act, also called the nationality Act of 1952, combined various immigration laws into a single comprehensive statute. It also eliminated the exclusion of people based on their race. The Civil Rights Act together with the 1965 Immigration Act banned the national-origins quota system. The 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) were aimed at addressing the increasing number of illegal immigrants. However, it facilitated most illegal immigrating individuals who were then living in the US to apply for legal citizenship. The Act also sanctioned the employers who hired unauthorized immigrants deliberately. On the other hand, the 1990 Immigration Act raised the annual limit on immigrants to 700,000 immigrants per annum. Since then various amendments have been made to the law. After the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the United States, the government established various law enforcement measures targeting individuals from certain nationalities.

Current US Laws Governing the Hiring of Aliens in the Hospitality Industry

Currently, there are various laws in the United States governing the hiring of aliens in the hospitality industry. In this regard, Rasic asserts that for more than a century, a number of policies and debates have been developed and discussed regarding the issue of immigration. The hospitality industry is perhaps the one which is mostly dominated by illegal alien works. The reason is that the shortage of labor that the industry has witnessed over the past several decades. Indeed, the hospitality industry has been experiencing labor shortage for more than 50 years. In the year 1963, Winsor discussed the issue of labor shortage in the US and Canadas hospitality industry. In this regard, the greatest shortage in the area was found in the field of food preparation, food service, as well as room service personnel.

Hospitality law in the United States has evolved as a legal professions specialty over the past several decades. Other that in the legal profession, hospitality law is offered on both the graduate and undergraduate levels as a course. Hospitality law refers to the body of rules and regulations related to lodging, travel, and foodservice industries. In other words, this regulation is the body of rules and regulations that govern some aspects of country clubs, spas, bars, restaurants, hotels, and convention, as well as meeting planners among others. It incorporates various practice areas such as antitrust, contracts, and tort law among others. In addition, there are multiple organizations that are related to the US hospitality law. For instance, the American Association and Lodging Association (AH&L) is a national organization that represents all stakeholders and sectors within the lodging industry. In addition, the Hospitality Law Conference is specifically designed to create a platform for all participants in the hospitality industry to share insight regarding the best practices, legal issues, and the latest advancements in the sphere. Similarly, the Hospitality Trends is a leading online knowledge and information base for the hospitality industry. The National Restaurant Association provides non-profits, educators, suppliers, and restaurants with valuable resources necessary for gaining a competitive advantage in the fast-priced hospitality industry.

As aforementioned, there are various rules that govern hiring of illegal aliens in the United States hospitality industry. One of such laws is the1978 Civil Service Reform Act (CSRA). This regulation criminalizes discrimination against job applicants or federal employee based on disability, age, sex, religion, national origin, color or race. It also prohibits other forms of discrimination based on the factors that do not have any impact on employee performance including sexual orientation, political association, and political association. Furthermore, the CSRA also prohibits employers from firing, demoting or retaliating against a job applicant or worker for making his/her appeal, grievance or complaint.

Another law related to hiring illegal aliens in the hospitality industry is the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This regulation prohibits employers from discriminating or refusing to hire or discharging any individual based on national origin, sex, religion, color or race. The Equal Pay Act mandates employers to pay female and male employees equally for the work conducted under similar conditions. On the other hand, the Immigration Reform and Control Act prohibit employers from hiring illegal aliens. All of them are mandated to verify the new employees eligibility and identity.

The Economics of Hiring Aliens in the Hospitality Industry

Economically, the US hospitality industry has been facing labor shortage because the native-born Americans could not take the job positions in the industry. In this regard, the areas that experienced severe shortage included the room service personnel, food preparation, as well as food service. While deliberating on the possible causes of such labor shortage in the United States hospitality industry, it was noted that the industry was negatively affected by the restrictive immigration policies. Such ones prohibited the immigration of chefs from the European countries. The issue of labor shortage in the area was aggravated by the lack of adequate skilled workers as well as a high employee turnover in the sphere. In response, scholars argued that the hospitality industry should embrace diversity in order to offset the labor shortages in the industry. The benefits of embracing diversity in the hospitality area include increased innovation and creativity, enhanced social responsibility, increased opportunities for acquiring resources, enhanced organizational flexibility, enhanced problem-solving, increased sales volume to ethnic minority groups, and improved competitiveness in recruiting the scarce labor force.

While the employers stand to gain economically from cheap labor provided by illegal alien workers, there are various problems associated with hiring them. With regard to these individuals in the hospitality industry, they are likely to get limited training, meager benefits, low wages, and long working hours. On the other hand, the challenges that the employers who hire illegal aliens in this sphere are likely to experience include a poor service delivery as well as unstable workforce. All these challenges create an impression that the hospitality industry is an unsuitable employment option especially when it comes to a long-term employment.

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Illegal aliens working in the area provides the vital personal service which can neither be outsourced nor automated. As such, some scholars contend that hiring employees to fill service positions in the industry is of great importance. Notably, the sphere has experienced increasing demand for workers in the recent years. Just like other sectors of the US economy, the hospitality industry has resolved to employ foreign-born workers (including illegal aliens) due to the lack of sufficient native-born workers. They are willing to work in the area. In addition, the demand for less-skilled workforce in the sphere is projected to increase significantly in the future.

Proposal to the Congress on the Hiring of Aliens in the Hospitality Industry

The Congress should use the mandate bestowed upon it by the US Constitution and device the necessary strategies aimed at curbing the problem of hiring illegal aliens in the hospitality industry. These efforts should start with tightening the relevant immigration policies. It should include enacting severe penalties against the perpetrators and their accomplices. For instance, the immigration laws should be reviewed to impose huge fines for the employers involved in hiring illegal aliens in the hospitality industry. Preferably, the government should freeze the assets of companies that use their workforce. These organizations should also be closed depending on the severity of the offense committed. However, the burden of proof will be to prove that such employers have knowingly employed illegal alien workers in their firms. In response, the Congress should allocate more financial resources to be used in the implementation of E-Verify Systems. The law should mandate all companies operating in the hospitality industry to implement such systems. It should be done in order to enhance the process of identifying legal residents and those living in the United States illegally. Since the process of deporting all illegal aliens in the country is not economically feasible, the Congress should grant legal status of all such employees. They have been living in the state since their childhood. The Congress should then authorize the construction of the US – Mexico border wall in order to prevent the further influx of illegal immigrants into the country.

Pros and Cons of Hiring Illegal Aliens in the Hospitality Industry

There are various advantages associated with hiring illegal aliens in the hospitality industry. Notably, the proposed immigration reform could lead to the naturalization of more than 11 million aliens who are currently living in the United States illegally. When this issue of illegal alien workers in the hospitality industry is analyzed from nonpartisan, reputable sources such as the US Department of Labor, the Pew Research Center, and the leading researchers and economists, the following matter is evident. Illegal immigrant workers play a key role in the development of the US economy. Currently, the overall illegal aliens employees in various sectors account for approximately 5.2% of the total labor force in the United States. As such, some researchers and economists have found that without these individuals there would be a decrease in both the countrys workforce as well as the gross state products. It underscores the importance of the critical role played by illegal alien workers not only in the hospitality industry but also all other spheres in the United States. In particular, the agricultural sector is largely composed of immigrating employees.

In addition, some scholars have suggested that illegal alien workers in the hospitality industry have lower wages and salaries than their native born American counterparts. The implication of this is that the companies operating in the area are able to cut down on their production costs by benefiting from cheap labor force provided by immigrants. Additionally, it also means that the organizations acting in the industry gain increased profits by employing illegal alien workers. These financial gains can be invested in other development projects resulting in the further growth of the US economy. The supporters of illegal alien workers in the area further suggest that these individuals are often hardworking than other groups in the country in an attempt to save money for their families. Therefore, illegal alien employees help the organizations operating in the sphere to increase their productivity as well as achieve their targeted sales objectives.

Another economic importance of immigrants is that they can indiscriminately take all types of jobs in the area. The reason is that most of them strive to become economically prosperous in and hence achieve their American dream. They thus facilitate an efficient and effective delivery of goods and services in the hospitality industry. On the other hand, illegal alien workers in the sphere contribute to cultural diversity as well as biodiversity in the United States. By bringing their skills and culture in the industry, these employees have contributed to a greater understanding of diverse cultural backgrounds and hence enhanced cultural diversity. On the other hand, the process of deporting illegal alien workers to their respective countries is very expensive and not economically feasible. Any attempt to deport them could cost the government a lot of resources at the expense of the tax-payers money.

Nevertheless, there are also various setbacks associated with illegal alien workers in the hospitality industry. One of such ones is a possibility of taking jobs at the expense of less-educated native-born Americans. In this regard, some critics of illegal alien workers suggest that the influx of such employees into the area results in an increase in unemployment levels among less educated Americans. Another argument against hiring them in the industry is that such individual does not pay taxes. Thus, the one is dependent on the tax-payers money to benefit from medical services and other social amenities. The reason is that illegal aliens who give birth or get sick in the United States are provided medical services without the hospital bill or money at the expense of taxpayers in the country. On the same note, critics further argue that the companies in the hospitality sphere benefit disproportionately from the cheap labor supplied by immigrants. However, these workers exploit the tax payers when it comes to the provision of services and other social amenities by the government. Moreover, illegal alien workers in the industry result in an increase in the unplanned population in the United States. It, in turn, leads to the increased pressure on social utilities including overcrowding in trains and buses. Similarly, the critics of illegal alien workers contend that granting amnesty to such employees constitutes the violation of the law.

Prior Actions by the US Congress with Respect to the Hiring Aliens

The US government has taken various actions against hiring illegal aliens. Particularly, the US Constitution has the provisions that make it unlawful for any entity or individual to recruit or hire illegal aliens. In this regard, the law is categorical in that it targets those employers or entities that knowingly employ or recruit immigrants not only in the hospitality industry but also in all other sectors of the US economy. In 1999, the federal law was passed against harboring or hiring illegal aliens. This law stipulates that an individual (including local governments, organizations, business or a group of persons) commits a crime when he/she assists immigrants to get employment, encourages illegal aliens to live in the United Sates or provides help to such individuals based on the personal convictions.

On the other hand, some actions have been taken by the Congress aimed at granting some illegal aliens with a lawful status. However, in 2010, the Congress failed to pass the so-called DREAM act. It was meant to grant the legal status to illegal aliens who had been living in the United States since they were minors. In contrast, the so-called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program which was instituted in 2012 by the Obama government facilitated many immigrants to request for deferrals against any action to remove them.

Proposed Resolution of the Illegal Issues of the Hiring of Illegal Aliens in the Hospitality Industry

Various resolutions have been proposed for hiring illegal aliens. However, it is worth noting that the current 1999 US Law against Hiring or Harboring Illegal Aliens has gained a little success in deterring employers from hiring these employees in the area. It means that these employers will continue employing such illegal aliens as long as they continue living in the country. Therefore, the resolution lies in deporting all illegal immigrants to their respective states. In light of this, the relevant government agencies such as the US Immigration and Customs (ICE) as well as the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) should start some initiatives aimed at deporting these persons. In order to achieve this, the agencies should work collaboratively with both the local and international law enforcement agencies. These organizations should then enact severe penalties to the employers or other entities involved in hiring illegal aliens. However, it is worth noting that the process of deporting all of immigrants to their respective countries may not be economically feasible. However, the activity should be conducted in various phases.

The Future

The future of the solution to the problem of hiring illegal aliens in the hospitality industry is largely dependent on the sphere itself and the law enforcement agencies in the United States. The companies operating in the area need to change their recruitment practices and stop employing immigrants. Similarly, such organizations should also collaborate with the law enforcement agencies and other relevant departments such as the Department of Homeland Security to bring to justice all illegal alien workers in the industry. In order to achieve this, the companies should focus beyond the short-to-medium-term financial gains and consider the long-term implications of illegal alien employees. Similarly, the E-Verify system promises various benefits towards ending the issue of illegal immigrant workers in the hospitality industry. The most probable way out to the issue of illegal alien workers lies in the construction of the US – Mexico border wall. It will prevent the illegal entry of individuals into the United States.


This research paper has sought to present a discussion regarding the legal issues surrounding the United States hospitality industry. In particular, the essay was focused on the problem of hiring illegal alien workers in the area. Indeed, the issue of hiring immigrants has been generating a heated debate from various interest groups. Looking at the history of immigration laws in the United States, it is evident that the problem has been inherent in the US history. The reason is that the issue had existed in the American colonial society; and it has transcended generations to the present day. However, some researchers have argued that immigration into the United States, be it illegal or legal, has played a key role in shaping the contemporary society. While the early immigration laws were characterized by prejudice and biasness, there is a possibility of reforming the current regulations for better. In addition, the illegal immigrants in the hospitality industry present both benefits and challenges to the American society.

In this regard, leading researchers and economics have suggested that the pros of such employees in the area outweigh their potential setbacks. However, there has been no conclusive research to collaborate such suggestions. In addition, the main concern among the anti-immigration critics is centered on the beneficiaries of illegal labor force. To them, the companies operating in the sphere benefit disproportionately from cheap labor at the expense of the American taxpayers. Thus, there is a need for urgent and dedicated future efforts to streamline the industry in order to ensure that illegal alien workers are made to pay their taxes.