Certain Undocumented Workers to be Given Work Permits


The Obama Administration announced last Friday that it would stop deporting certain undocumented immigrants. Eligible undocumented immigrants—called DREAMers from the pending DREAM Act legislation that would provide them a path to citizenship—are under the age of 30 and came into the United States illegally before they were 16.

In a significant change in immigration enforcement, U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano announced that the eligible undocumented immigrants would receive a two-year deferral in deportation. That deferral could ultimately lead to permanent residency and, in theory, eventual citizenship. Prior to the deferral, though, each applicant must prove that he or she qualifies, is not a threat to the United States, and does not have a criminal history. 

Ultimately, these individuals will be granted work authorization, which will likely be evidenced by employment authorization cards. Employers should be aware, though, that the process for these individuals to obtain work authorization is not yet clear and any employee who comes forward regarding unlawful immigration status may need to be terminated.

The Immigration Reform and Control Act prohibits knowingly employing unauthorized workers. If employers receive credible information that an employee is not work authorized, they are prohibited by federal law from continuing to employ them.  

“Any time there is a major change in immigration enforcement, HR is in a bit of a pickle,” says Ryan Adair, MSEC Manager of Immigration Services. “This is because employees often look to HR for assistance in understanding new laws, but in doing so, they may reveal information that would spell trouble if the company would continue to employ them.”