Hot Topic: Immigration Reform
Executive Actions on Immigration could affect not only an estimated 5.2 million unauthorized immigrants living in the United States, but small business owners and entrepreneurs as well.
Here’s a look at the actions listed to streamline legal immigration, according to the White House Fact Sheet on Immigration Accountability Executive Action:
- Providing portable work authorization for high-skilled workers awaiting LPR status and their spouses.
- Enhancing options for foreign entrepreneurs.
- Strengthening and extending on-the-job training for STEM graduates of U.S universities.
- Streamlining the process for foreign workers and their employers, while protecting American workers
- Reducing family separation for those waiting to obtain LPR status.
- Ensuring that individuals with lawful status can travel to their countries of origin.
- Issuing a Presidential Memorandum on visa modernization.
- Creating a White House Task Force on New Americans.
- Promoting Citizenship Public Awareness
- Ensuring U.S. Citizens Can Serve
- Creating a mechanism that requires certain undocumented immigrants to pass a background check to make sure that they start paying their fair share in taxes.
- Expanding DACA to cover additional DREAMers
With this immigration reform 3.7 to 4.1 million unauthorized immigrants who are parents of U.S. citizens and LPR’s (lawful permanent residents) will have the opportunity to request a temporary relief from deportation and work authorization for three years at a time; if they come forward and meet certain qualifications. To meet the qualifications they must register, have been continuously present in the U.S. for more than 5 years, submit to biometric data, pass background checks, show that their child was born before the date of this announcement, and pay taxes. Again, this is only a temporary relief of three years at a time.
The Executive Action also allows for the expansion of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals; eliminating the age cap that had previously limited the law to childhood arrivals who turned 31 prior to 6/15/12. Just as with the parents mentioned above, continuous presence in the US must have begun prior to January 1, 2010; and will also only be granted in increments of 3 years.
So what does all of this mean for the common small business owner from an HR standpoint?
One thing of importance is that thus far the executive order does not allow this new class of worker to get subsidies under the Affordable Care Act. In fact, the president’s executive order at present does not extend to the ACA eligibility in anyway, there for these employees won’t count towards your 50 employee of more threshold quota.
Some theorize that many of these individuals will step forward to claim a legitimate work status; thereby using an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number to contribute to the social security system and pay taxes. However, employers may also see an increase in employment lawsuits or more union organizing, as this new population of workers who have been silent at the worksite begins to speak out in regards to their grievances; ranging from harassment, discrimination, and lack of overtime pay. Be sure that these employees who may not have been given vacation time, and other benefits in the past, will now have the same expectations as the other employees.
However, it is expected that many of the immigrants who could seek relief will not do so, as they realize that this is “temporary” and not legislation. Additionally, while receiving amnesty (even temporarily) may seem enticing, many will choose to forego applying, to avoid paying the application costs, and having to pay taxes.
There are sure to be several new guidance’s issued in the coming weeks from the Department of Labor in coordination with other agencies, such as the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement, regarding the new executive actions; and as with anything new there are bound to be greater audits and regulatory checks. Businesses may want to entertain the idea of doing their own proactive audit and recheck their employee’s documents, legitimizing the work statuses of employees, even if you think they have passed previously. Remember that any employee who presents new forms of identification should also complete a new I-9 form. Most importantly of all, remember not to take any discriminatory or retaliatory actions against any workers as it relates to the new immigration orders.