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Focusing on People and Partnerships are the Keys to Providing the Benefits of Citizenship to Employees

Wendy Kallergis is being honored as a Promoting Citizenship in the Workplace Champion of Change.

Wendy Kallergis

Wendy Kallergis is being honored as a Promoting Citizenship in the Workplace Champion of Change.

Nearly a century ago, at the height of the U.S. immigration boom, Bethlehem Steel became one of the first U.S. employers to begin providing free English language instruction to its immigrant workers. Today, the National Immigration Forum’s Bethlehem Project continues that mission by facilitating the citizenship of the country’s eligible immigrant workforce.

My family and I have lived in Miami for more than thirty years. Caring about the families who live in our city has always been very important to us, so it was an easy decision to help introduce South Florida to the Bethlehem Project.

With more than 500,000 employees eligible to become citizens, Miami is one of the cities with the most potential for the Bethlehem Project. The project’s goal is simple: Help eligible immigrants become citizens, which not only helps immigrant families but also businesses in South Florida.

My work is in the hospitality industry, and partnerships have always been an integral part of my strategy to build a stronger organization. In South Florida, the Bethlehem Project has worked with Baptist Health South Florida, the Miami Dolphins, and Miami Dade College. Within the hospitality industry, I’ve helped connect the Bethlehem Project with numerous hotels and resorts. As the project expands, we will continue to reach out to colleagues in other cities, like the San Francisco Hotel Council.

What we’re doing is simplifying the citizenship process: cutting back on bureaucracy, creating in-house workshops, and connecting immigrants and new citizens with employers and human resource representatives in the hospitality industry.

The benefits are crystal clear: We’re providing our industry with an expanding workforce, and we’re creating a sense of loyalty among our workers. At the same time, we’re opening doors and generating prosperity for immigrant families and our community.

Our board and our membership embraced this program, as our employees are at the heart of the hospitality industry. Being honored as a Champion of Change for my work on this project is truly an exciting and humbling recognition.

The human resources director of one of our first business partners said it best: “With this partnership, we demonstrate to our employees that we care and support their best interests as much as we care for our community.”

Wendy Kallergis is President and CEO of the Greater Miami & The Beaches Hotel Association.