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"Doris, Check Out That Cabana Boy"
by Jose Latour

Have you guys seen the billboards for that new brand of rum, "Cabana Boy"? I'd say I probably had five or six female friends or relatives make smart-aleck comments to the extent that they'd like to be pool side with precisely such a "Raoul" waiting on them hand and foot, bringing them large "fru-fru" drinks with big umbrellas and whole pineapples dangling off the side. I suppose there's nothing sexist about it: whether it's a buff, tan stud or a smiling hula babe, we all pretty much like the idea of relaxing pool-side with an attractive attendant keeping us comfortable and a frosty beverage within reach.

If you are one of those who has traveled to the Caribbean or the South Pacific to experience this wonderful cliché first hand, you can attest to the relaxation factor. If, on the other hand, you spent the weekend in a Florida, California, or other U.S. resort approximating the same it probably didn't occur to you to inquire about the immigration status or the source of the accent of the handsome young man or woman making your dream vacation a reality.

Ah, the exquisite pain of being an immigration attorney. (-:

According to a recent article appearing in the Chicago Tribune, U.S. resorts are relying, more than ever, on foreign workers for their staffing needs. Despite the uncertain U.S. economy and the unemployment figures, hospitality positions in resorts continue to remain unfilled, prompting hotels and resorts to rely more than ever on foreign talent. Some very large and powerful organizations such as Walt Disney mega-complexes have their own Q visas or use the seasonal H-2B categories to make the lawful employment of temporary workers a legal reality. Most, however, just accept the usual social security and driver's license on the I-9 without asking too many questions.

The Chicago Tribune article discussed a Michigan innkeeper who needed temporary help for her two waterfront inns. She simply couldn't find local folks to take care of business, so she hired a Florida firm to locate temporary housekeepers in Jamaica, pursuing H-2B visas. She spent $1300 in fees (an astonishingly reasonable amount) and spent months waiting for background checks. She paid airfare for her workers to travel to Florida and sent them on a two day bus trip to Michigan. Finally, she built the temporary workers a 4-bedroom house for temporary lodging, investing $240,000.

She insists that this was the best way to deal with temporary workers for her peak summer tourist season.

Guys, you know me and you know I'm not a pessimist, but re-read that last paragraph and ask yourself the following question:

What does it say about the state of the current American workforce when an innkeeper is willing to go through the preceding steps, considering it a preferable option to identifying American housekeepers?

I'll tell you what it means: it means that we need to facilitate the importation of temporary unskilled workers for precisely these positions and beef up our tourism industry to allow more aggressive competition with historical "vacation paradise destinations," especially in a post-September 11-America. Think about it:

  • Americans are fearful of traveling abroad and want to vacation within the U.S.

  • Tourism based economy states such as Florida, Louisiana, California, etc. are still reeling from the economic impact of September 11.

  • The dramatic shortage of housekeeping and other resort support staff (as evidenced by the prior example) is making it impossible for U.S. resort and innkeepers to provide the level of facility amenities American tourists expect from, for example, Caribbean destinations.

Wouldn't it make more sense to expand the availability of the H- 2B visa on a trial basis to remove the seasonal "provision" at least until labor data shows the availability of American workers to fill such positions? For example: if the U.S. Department of Labor were to certify the ongoing shortage of resort workers (a proven statistical fact which could be easily certified through existing labor data), H-2B visas could be approved for, for example, one year periods. This could be done much in the same way that TN visas are approved. Resorts could apply for and get approved H-2B visas for one year periods, meeting the same ETA 9035 labor condition attestation requirements as H-1B petitioners: confirming that they meet all DOL prerequisites, especially prevailing wage. Each year, already-existing labor surveys could verify the availability of hotel workers in each particular region. If the shortage was there, the availability of the H-2B would continue. If the shortage was not there, the H-2B visa would not be available for resort operators within that particular sector.

By implementing such a program, U.S. tourism could be stimulated in the states which have suffered as a result of September 11, American tourism could be driven to those states, which would now be offering Caribbean-like amenities through the man (and woman)- power long missing from our tourism sector.

Guys, it's all about people wanting the jobs we need filled. It really is that simple.

About The Author

Jose Latour is the founding partner of Latour & Lleras, P.A., a Gainesville, Florida based business immigration practice working primarily with the IT industry and foreign investors. The above represents Mr. Latour's Editorial opinion. JELPA is an A/V rated firm whose web site,, is one of the Internet’s most visited immigration sites. The firm was named “ONE OF AMERICA’S TOP TEN INTERNET/VIRTUAL COMPANIES” in the 1999 Inc. Magazine and Cisco Systems “Growing with Technology Awards.” Mr. Latour served as a U.S. Diplomatic and Consular Officer in Mexico and Africa before entering private practice and today divides his time between his law practice, writing, flying, and his music.

The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of ILW.COM.