Temporary Relief for DREAMers and Employer’s Obligations
The Obama Administration chose to offer immigration protection to younger undocumented immigrants through the “Deferred Action Process for Young People” program. What could this potentially mean for your company? The following provides a brief summary of the program and guidance for employers.
Beneficiaries of the new program must satisfy all the following requirements:
- Be 15-30 years old and have entered the U.S. before age 16;
- Have been present in the U.S. for 5 years as of June 15, 2012;
- Have maintained continuous residence;
- Have not been convicted of one serious crime or multiple minor crimes; and
- Be currently enrolled in high school, graduated or have a GED, or are honorably discharged veterans of the Coast Guard or Armed Forces.
Do companies need to do anything now?
No. The federal agencies involved in implementing this new program have not announced the exact procedures individuals must follow to apply for this program. Issuance of those procedures is expected within the next 60 days. While this new program opens up previously unavailable immigration benefits, including temporary work authorization to eligible individuals, employers must continue to properly maintain a Form I-9 for all their employees and continue to comply with all immigration laws.
Do companies need to tell their employees anything?
No. This program is not set up to help companies sponsor individuals for work authorization. It helps individuals with no legal immigration status. Nevertheless, if an employer prefers to notify its employees for any possible family members or friends who might be eligible for the program, Monty & Ramirez can provide an employer with a script to help employers apprise their employees of these developments while avoiding relevant business and legal risks.
What should I do if an employee informs me they have applied for the program?
Federal law requires that employers only employ individuals who are authorized to work in the United States. Employers should be proactive in reminding their employees of the following:
- The company complies with all immigration laws;
- Nothing in the law has changed related to the employment of individuals who can establish current legal work authorization;
- Any material difference in the information he or she initially provided the company as it relates to their legal work authorization could lead to his or her termination; and
- There is nothing an employer can do for its employees under the new program because the program is not an employer-sponsored program.
IMMIGRATION COMPLIANCE BEST PRACTICES
Conduct a compliance audit
Companies should continue complying with immigration laws pertaining to work authorization, record keeping, and nondiscrimination. Monty & Ramirez recommends companies perform a comprehensive review of their immigration policies and practices by engaging an independent firm to conduct an audit to identify deficiencies in your policy.
Proactively prepare HR professionals and managers
Every company has a different workforce and business necessities. Therefore, employers should consult with their employment attorneys to develop talking points to discuss immigration matters with their workforce, as well as a “script” for specific employee inquiries.
Many people are optimistic about this development in the law. Certainly, the “DREAMers” plight is a special circumstance. Employers should be prepared for the immediate and long-term impact these individuals will eventually have on their workforce. Please do not hesitate to call Monty & Ramirez (281.493.5529) if you are interested in receiving more information.
Jacob M. Monty is the founding partner of Monty & Ramirez LLP. He is board certified in labor and employment law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. He is a member of the American Law Institute and named to Texas Super Lawyers in 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011.