Marriott Chairman J.W. “Bill” Marriott, Jr. Ducks Key Question on Immigration at Company Shareholder Meeting

Declines to Explain Why Big Companies Supporting “Path to Citizenship” Don’t Lobby to Secure Southern Border First to Help Build Public Support for the Immigration Law Changes Big Business Wants

Washington, D.C. – Today, at Marriott International’s shareholder meeting in Washington, D.C., Justin Danhof, director of the National Center for Public Policy Research’s Free Enterprise Project, asked Executive Chairman J.W. “Bill” Marriott, Jr. about the company’s push for immigration reform.

Danhof, in his question, noted that 57 percent of the U.S. public supports the border fence and 69 percent supports using the U.S. military to keep Mexican drug violence out of the U.S. There is strong support for border security, and strengthening border security would increase public support for legalization of illegal immigrations already here. Therefore, given that the company has pushed for immigration reform for years without success, why does it not push for completing the fence and then push for legalization, as doing the former would make the public more agreeable to the latter?

“In his response, Mr. Marriott started by explaining that Marriott does very much support the idea of border security but, at the same time, he explained that many of the company’s employees that are here legally and work using green cards deserve a path to citizenship,” said Danhof. “That was really the entire crux of his answer. He did not say a word directed at the central point of my question, which was, ‘why doesn’t the company publicly support building a border fence and then engage in comprehensive immigration reform?’ It was as if I hadn’t asked that.”

“The company’s position is clearly to continue to push for legal status and border security at the same time,” Danhof continued. “As I plainly articulated, this approach has failed in the past and could also fail going forward. Either way, it is a method that does not have the broad backing of the American public, and the company is risking its strong reputation with this approach.”

“It is incomprehensible that a business such as Marriott that is heavily involved in the immigration debate cannot answer a simple question: why not build a secure border fence first, and then engage in the other dynamics of reform? If Marriott were to publicly endorse this approach, the company would align itself with a large block of the American public that is genuinely concerned about border security and continued illegal immigration from Mexico,” continued Danhof.

“When big businesses and politicians converge to write sweeping legislation, be it on energy, health care or immigration, the lone voice in the wilderness, that is all too often ignored, is the American people. Today, Marriott signaled that it is perfectly willing to ignore the public and engage with the political class in Washington, D.C. to overhaul America’s immigration system. As a hospitality company, Marriott relies on branding and customer service to drive success. It is incomprehensible that Marriott would take such a dramatic risk with the company’s reputation by ignoring the public,” Danhof concluded.

“Big business is its own worst enemy when it comes to so-called ‘immigration reform,'” added Amy Ridenour, chairman of the National Center for Public Policy Research, and also a Marriott shareholder. “If our southern border were secured, the public would be far more willing to support legislation to grant legal status to those who are here illegally. But Big Business wants the ‘reform’ of granting legal status, as well as other legal changes to let in more immigrants with certain skills, without first closing the border. Has Big Business gotten what it wants? Not since 1986. So why doesn’t Big Business push for border security as a tactic to get broad public approval for the legal changes it wants? That’s the mystery, and we’re sorry Mr. Marriott chose not to explain it. Unfortunately, we’re left to speculate that the reason may be that Big Business really does not want the supply of immigrant labor from across our southern border to dry up, so it pushes to grant legal status and even citizenship to illegal aliens already here while doing little to stop continued illegal immigration.”

“Immigration ‘reform’ advocates keep calling for a ‘compromise,'” concluded Ridenour. “Here’s a compromise: We enact legalization without border security in 1986, and border security without legalization in 2014. If someone wants to do something else about immigration after that’s done, we can discuss it.”

Justin Danhof also asked Marriott executives about immigration at the company’s 2013 shareholder meeting. A detailed write-up of that exchange, including an audio recording, is available here.

The full text of Danhof’s question to Mr. Marriott, as prepared for delivery, is here.

Marriott International said it would be posting an audio recording of the shareholder meeting on its website sometime this afternoon, but it had not been posted at the time this release was completed.

The National Center’s Free Enterprise Project is a leading free-market corporate activist program. In 2013, Free Enterprise Project representatives attended 33 shareholder meetings advancing conservative and free-market principles in the areas of health care, energy, taxes, subsidies, regulations, religious freedom, media bias, gun rights and many more important public policy issues. The National Center has participated in 30 shareholder meetings so far in 2014.

The National Center for Public Policy Research, founded in 1982, is a non-partisan, free-market, independent conservative think-tank. Ninety-four percent of its support comes from individuals, three percent from foundations, and three percent from corporations. It receives over 350,000 individual contributions a year from over 96,000 active recent contributors.

Contributions are tax-deductible and greatly appreciated.


The National Center for Public Policy Research is a communications and research foundation supportive of a strong national defense and dedicated to providing free market solutions to today’s public policy problems. We believe that the principles of a free market, individual liberty and personal responsibility provide the greatest hope for meeting the challenges facing America in the 21st century.