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MRA Report: Immigration Action Item

Barring an unexpected glitch with printing or the U.S. Post Office, this edition of Foodservice News should be arriving in very early October, in time for the 2017 Minnesota Hospitality Conference and Expo. The premier education event for our industry this year will be at RiverCentre in St. Paul on Thursday, October 5. We know how hard it is to get out of the restaurant and how busy everyone is, but the expo is worth the effort. The event is free to those in the industry and all of the details are online at www.hospitalitymn.org/expo. Highlights include:

A memorable keynote speech by award-winning chef Gavin Kaysen;

Nine workshop presentations on topics chosen by hospitality operators;

Three new “Connection Corners” featuring moderated discussions led by experts in technology, marketing and human resources;

The Expo Stage sponsored by Reinhart Foodservice with great demonstrations and presentations;

More than 150 exhibit booths, many by companies for which this is their only show in Minnesota;

Take a break with a chair massage sponsored by AmeriPride;

 A customized version of the Food Fanatics by US Foods

Immigration is prominent in the news of late, but is always an important topic for our industry. U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the U.S. Department of Justice will end the “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals” program if Congress fails to take action within six months. President Obama established the deferral in 2012 by executive order. Several courts have ruled that the order exceeded executive authority and the issue was probably headed for the U.S. Supreme Court absent the action by the administration. There are about 800,000 participants in DACA nationally and they have become popularly known as the “Dreamers” because they embody the American dream by pursuing education and careers. The Minnesota Restaurant Association Board adopted a position at its recent meeting in support of the Dreamers, urging Congress and the administration to work together to extend DACA. As this column is going to press, there appears to be some serious bipartisan discussion about how to solve this critical problem. You can help by contacting your representatives or signing one of the many online or Facebook petitions on the issue.

A second immigration-related issue has received much less attention but is also important to the hospitality industry in many parts of Minnesota. Via an order issued in June, “Buy American – Hire American,” the Trump administration ordered a review of all of the programs that allow visa holders to work while in this country. A program about which we’re concerned is the J-1 student summer work study program. College students from many countries have been taking advantage of the opportunity to work in the U.S. for up to four months during their school summer break. Minnesota employers, often in seasonal and resort markets such as the North Shore, Brainerd Lakes, Alexandria and other limited labor markets, have been using the J-1 program for about 25 years. In 2016, there were 1,615 student workers in Minnesota, up from 830 in 2014. You can help by visiting the website www.americansforculturalexchange.org and listing your business as a supporter. There is also more information about the program and the challenge it faces on the site.

Our industry isn’t new to supporting immigrants or reforms to our immigration system. We have been part of the Minnesota Business Immigration Coalition since its founding a decade ago. The broad group included business trade associations and the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce. The coalition has reached a joint position statement with a diverse group of labor unions, religious organizations and the Minnesota Immigration Law Center. The statement and more information about the coalition is online at www.mnbic.org. The MRA also supports a carefully designed limited driving credential for immigrants in our state. Thirteen other states have created such credentials.

One feature event we want to be sure to get on your busy fall calendar is the annual fundraiser, Stars of the Future, November 5 at The Living Room, W Hotel, Minneapolis. You are invited to join the Hospitality Minnesota Education Foundation as we showcase talented MN high school ProStart teams that are matched with seasoned local chefs to serve elegant, "restaurant ready" small plate tastings. As an attendee, you not only support the winning state ProStart team on its road to the National ProStart Invitations (MN placed 7th in the nation in 2017), but also enjoy industry networking, silent auction bidding and the opportunity to meet some rising stars in the culinary field. Support our next generation and you won’t leave hungry.

Our new online vendor directory is available at www.mnrestaurant.org under resources. 

Dan McElroy is executive vice president of the Minnesota Restaurant Association and president and CEO of Hospitality Minnesota, which also includes the Lodging and Resort & Campground associations.

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