Sunday, December 02, 2007
Many Extremists, Xenophobics, conservative Citizens saying deported them all 12 millions. Rounded up and put them in a plain or a bus. Undocumented get out.
Why those people reacting that way? Why is so much ignorance and bigotry on this complex and sensitive issue? Why Media do not exposed the both sides of Immigration?
Immigrants are willing, how will we assimilate them?
THE QUESTION: If 'all politics is local,' how has the illegal immigration issue impacted Lake of the Ozarks?
I have a unique perspective on this issue, having been an employer and business owner for several years here at the lake.
From 1994 until its sale in 2000, I was the owner/operator of the 51 room Days Inn Lake of the Ozarks in Osage Beach.
From the moment we took over the operation until the time we sold the franchise, we experienced the nightmare of recruiting and retaining employees.
We tried paying more to our employees than our competitors.
We instituted a later starting time for the convenience of our employees.
We offered a company paid lunch for all employees on Fridays. We had an employee of the month program that paid bonuses to the winner.
We offered flex time so that employees with children could take off from work to attend school meetings, doctor visits and child related errands.
Our franchise was one of the first hotels to offer company-paid health insurance for our employees.
The end result of all these innovative employee programs was that in our last year of operation (2000) we experienced a turnover of 61 employees in 11 months!
During the six years we owned the hotel, we never knowingly hired any illegal immigrants. After selling the hotel, I heard through the grapevine that some hotels would contract with employment services that provided non-English speaking Russian and Mexican housekeepers.
Hiring through these employment services was a way around the immigration laws, but those employers using these services knew that these folks were most likely undocumented, illegal immigrants.
Herein lies the dilemma for the lake area businesses ' not enough locals are willing to work in the hospitality/restaurant industries and manual labor positions. A sharp influx of illegal immigrants willing to work, appreciative of the pay and low turnover rates for the employer makes hiring them attractive to the business owner.
There is a dark side to the hiring of illegal immigrant workers. There have been cases where unscrupulous business owners have hired illegal immigrants for the sole purpose of exploiting them by not paying minimum wage, not withholding federal/social security/state income taxes or unemployment insurance.
There have been documented cases of illegal immigrants being warehoused in large numbers in small apartments or houses here at the lake.
They are virtual prisoners of their employers, constantly threatened with being reported to INS or USCIS for deportation if they do not comply or if they complain.
Local law enforcement says that while they have seen an increase in the number of illegal immigrants here at the lake, they have been involved in no more criminal activities than the rest of the population.
I do not believe that the illegal immigrants living at the lake take jobs from anyone. They, in fact, fill a void in the pool of workers unwilling to work in the lower paying jobs of a resort area.
Either we find a way to document the illegal workers living here and make them taxpaying citizens or employers at the lake must pay all workers a starting salary of between $12 to $20 per hour.
In the coming years, the number of illegal immigrants arriving at the lake will most likely increase along with the rest of the country.
Four million illegal folks are already here. As a nation of immigrants ourselves, we must find a way to turn this into a win-win situation for both the United States and these people seeking honest work.
I believe that the vast majority of illegal immigrants want to work hard, provide for their families and anyone of us would do the same given the same set of circumstances.