On November 20, 2014 President Obama announced that he would take executive action to further immigration reform amid Congressional gridlock.
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This move was welcomed by some members of the business community who have been pining for reforms that make it possible to hire highly skilled and hard-working, albeit undocumented, individuals.
However, it is critical that employers recognize the limited scope of the President’s Executive Order. Specifically, his announcement included the following disclaimer:
“You [i.e. a specially defined category of undocumented individuals] will be able to stay in this country temporarily without fear of deportation. That’s what this deal is. Now, let’s be clear about what it isn’t. . . . It does not grant citizenship or the right to stay here permanently or offer the same benefits that citizens receive. Only Congress can do that. All we are saying is, that we are not going to deport you.”
Therefore, employers must wait for additional guidance before they can even consider hiring anyone who may fall within the scope of the limited and temporary deportation safe-harbor created by this Executive Order. It is still unlawful to knowingly hire undocumented workers and doing so will still result is significant civil and/or criminal penalties.
But the hope is that this Executive Order will set the stage for a permanent legislative solution that employers will actually be able to rely on.