Last night President Obama announced the following regarding executive action on immigration:

  • Undocumented immigrants who have been in the United States for more than 5 years, have a U.S. citizen or permanent resident child, pass a background check and pay their taxes will be eligible for relief from deportation;
  • Steps will be taken to increase resources at the border; and
  • Steps will also be taken to assist high-skilled workers, international graduates and those seeking to invest in the United States.  In a memo issued yesterday, USCIS Director Rodriguez discussed potential policies supporting U.S. High Skilled Businesses and Workers, including new policies and regulations tied to employment-based immigrant visas, reforming Optional Practical Training for international students, promoting research and development in the United States, greater transparency around the L-1B nonimmigrant visa program and increasing worker portability.

The first bullet point alone could affect approximately 4 million undocumented immigrants.  To be clear, this temporary relief is directed to parents and family unity as it requires an undocumented immigrant to meet time and familial relationship requirements in order to qualify.  If they register with the Department of Homeland Security and are found to be eligible, they will be eligible for a work permit and can then apply for a Social Security number and driver’s license.

For employers, this means that individuals who register and are granted a work permit will have greater mobilitiy in their employment choices since they will no longer be concerned about staying under the radar.  It also means that employers may face situations where employees come forward with valid documentation to correct previously presented fraudulent documents for purposes of the Form I-9 and/or they come forward and present new documents and a new identity.  Prior to taking action in these situations you should consult immigration counsel to address Form I-9 and E-Verify issues.  We are happy to assist here at Arnall Golden Gregory LLP.

For more on the President’s announcement, click here.