SWFL Hotels Split Over Citizenship Check

SWFL Hotels Split Over Citizenship Check



The issue of illegal workers is one of the hottest topics in the hospitality industry in Southwest Florida.

There is a growing clamor at the federal level to institute mandatory legal status checks of all new hires. The program called E-Verify, which is the same program used in verifying the status of immigrants working in farms, is gaining support in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Beth Hight, who helps run a motel in Fort Myers Beach, said, “I think if you’re working here in America, you should be legal. Because that’s the way it is.”

She supports a federal measure that mandates legal status checks for new employees. Hight said, “I had to have my identity verified at any job I’ve ever had in my life. And so, I don’t see why the hospitality business would be any different.”

However, it appears that Hight is in the minority. Most hotel owners and managers in Fort Myers Beach said that they do not want the E-Verify program for the hospitality industry to pass.

According to Jose Gonzalez, the Vice President of Governmental Affairs of the Associated Industries of Florida (AIF), “Employers here in the state of Florida are a little concerned because the system has a lot of flaws.” He said that the system has deleterious effects. “These folks will move to other states. And so, you’ll see financial impacts in many different ways,” Gonzalez added.

But Hight is not convinced by the financial argument. She said, “Of all the things that have damaged us financially, I would think that this would be a thing that would be protecting us financially.”



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