Welcome to the Garden State


By Marilou Halvorsen, NJRHA President

This simple word can now provoke intense reactions in any conversation. No matter how you might feel about immigration, it’s apparent to me that our industry is poised to be a leader in the immigration reform discussion.

New Jersey is unique. Some may chuckle and say “that’s an understatement,” but when it comes to immigration, we deviate slightly from other states. Our state is a melting pot of cultures and different languages and whether people like it or not, immigrants are tightly woven into our business community and towns. In our case, they keep the hospitality industry rolling, especially along our shoreline. With that said, add the nation’s (and NJ’s) low unemployment rate and we now need to rely on the many visa programs even more.

Visas, like HB-1 and J.1 bring people into our state from all over the world. This system provides the seasonal labor we need to service restaurants, hotels and even golf courses throughout the Garden State. Although I’d love to see residents take these jobs, and some do but the fact of the matter is, most locals don’t. Add this situation to the fact NJ’s mass transit system doesn’t support easy statewide commuting, and we all know that living along the shoreline can be costly, especially for a seasonal job.

Responsible immigration reform is essential to the growth of our industry, without it, I fear our restaurant and hotel operations won’t continue to prosper and why it’s essential that leaders from the hospitality industry be at the table when this national, and at times, extremely emotional topic is discussed.

Immigration = A word that stitches the balance between humanity and business in our country.