This year, Chipotle Mexican Grill learned firsthand the potential costs of immigration issues. Audits that started in Minnesota and spread to other markets led to the loss of about 500 workers because their documentation could not be verified, as Reuters and other news outlets reported.
Restaurants nationwide are potentially subject to Immigration and Customs Enforcement audits, but some states are taking it further to curb illegal immigration. Restaurateurs said such restrictive laws are scaring away potential employees who are here legally and eligible to work.
States including Georgia and Alabama made it harder for restaurants to hire even legal immigrants. Despite unemployment being stuck at about 9%, eateries in some areas reported having a tough time finding qualified job candidates, saying the labor shortage is hurting business.
Court rulings put certain provisions of Georgia’s law on hold, but the measure, passed in April, still requires employers to use the E-Verify system to confirm employees’ status and penalizes people who use fake identification to get a job. The Associated Press reported that farmers were finding it impossible to find American workers to do tough labor, such as picking blueberries, after Alabama passed strict immigration law. Many are worried about harvesting next year’s crops.
Other factors besides strict state laws might be at work. Mexican migration to the U.S. has dropped drastically, the Los Angeles Times reported, and so many Mexicans are leaving the U.S. that net migration is near zero. The trend is driven partly by stricter federal enforcement and additional state laws, but it comes also because jobs have dried up with the economy, experts told the Times. Mexican citizens who once crossed the border illegally for jobs at U.S. restaurants, construction sites and farms saw opportunities dry up, and experts are mixed on whether illegal immigration from Mexico will increase again when the economy gets better.
Has your restaurant been dealing with labor problems because of immigration issues? Tell us about it in the comments.