In mid-November, President Obama unveiled an executive action on immigration policy, allowing millions of immigrants to have temporary legal status, as well as indefinite protection from deportation. This new action applies to any undocumented immigrant who:
- Has been in the U.S. for longer than five years and is the parent of a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident
- Was brought to the U.S. before Jan. 1, 2007, who was 15 or younger, was 30 years old or younger as of June 15, 2012
- Is able to pass a background check that proves they have not been convicted of a felony or major misdemeanor crime (including burglary, DUI, domestic violence, or drug distribution)
So what does this mean for your company and our industry? Let’s break it down.
What does this mean for you as an employer?
Employers must be able to provide employment verification records in order to follow through with the deferred action application. The information shared by deferred action applicants can’t be shared with law enforcement for deportation purposes. Basically, submitting your employees verification documents is not enough to warrant ICE or DOJ enforcement actions (unless there are extenuating circumstances).
If your employees are not able to produce work verification documents, you do have grounds to terminate their employment without violating the anti-discrimination provision of the Immigration and Nationality Act. To knowingly employ non-verified workers could lead to you as the employer facing civil and/or criminal penalties.
As long as individual immigrants register for work authorization, submit biometric data (fingerprints, for example), pass background checks, pay the fee (ranging from $0 to $515), and prove that their child was born in the U.S., their request for temporary relief from deportation and work authorization will be taken into serious consideration.
According to the Department of Homeland Security, once and individual is granted their temporary protection status, an individual cannot be detained by the Department of Homeland Security on the basis of their immigration status in the United States.
A key phrase in this order is “Deporting Felons, Not Families.” The President’s actions focus on the deportation of those who threaten national security, not those who are working to support their families.
But, it may threaten your company. When individuals come forward to register, it may come back on your company as one that hired undocumented workers, which long term undermines the wages of all workers, since undocumented workers do not pay taxes.
What will happen to the temporary statuses after Obama’s term is up?
Temporary protection statuses are granted in three-year increments. At the end of the three-year period, individuals would need to reapply for temporary protection status. However, in three years a new president will be in office, meaning there’s no guarantee that the order will still be in effect.
While the future of the order is unclear, the best we can do is monitor, and hope for the best for our industry.
Maureen Acquino is the Marketing and Communications Manager for PLANET, the national association of lawn and landscape professionals