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Business Immigration Now: Employers Should Get Ready – President Obama Apparently Planning Steps To Address Immigration Reform

August 04, 2014

The Associated Press recently reported that White House officials are apparently making plans to act this summer to address immigration reform and possibly grant work permits to potentially millions of immigrants who are currently in the United States without government authorization.  President Obama apparently may act to allow undocumented aliens to stay in the United States without threat of deportation, according to advocates and lawmakers with close ties to the administration.

If effectuated, such a large-scale move on immigration would have a significant impact on U.S. employers and the  employment laws concerning these (formerly) undocumented individuals.

11.5 million immigrants now in this country without authorization. President Obama announced late last month that congressional efforts to remake the nation's dysfunctional immigration system were dead and he would proceed on his own authority to fix the system where he could.

White House officials led by Domestic Policy Council Director Cecilia Munoz and White House Counsel Neil Eggleston, along with Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, have been working to chart a plan on executive actions Obama could take to legalize this group via Presidential authority.

Administration officials are apparently weighing a range of options including reforms to the deportation system and ways to grant relief from deportation to targeted populations in the country, likely by expanding Obama's two-year-old directive that granted work permits to certain immigrants brought here illegally as youths. That program, called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, has been extended to more than 500,000 immigrants so far.

Many immigration reform advocates would like to see deferred action made available to anyone who would have been eligible for eventual citizenship under a comprehensive immigration bill the Senate passed last year, which would be around 9 million people. However, President Obama has indicated that reform advocates must "right-size" their expectations, even as he pledged to be aggressive in steps he might eventually take.

Stakeholders believe the impacted groups may include parents or legal guardians of U.S. citizen children and parents or legal guardians of DACA recipients.

Another focus could be the potentially hundreds of thousands of people who might be eligible for green cards today if current law didn't require them to leave the country for 10 years before applying for one. 

Critically, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce says it is actively working to determine whether there are steps Obama could take by executive action that could help the business community with their critical labor needs.  This is why employers should closely monitor Presidential action at this time and until President Obama acts later this summer.  Should President Obama reform immigration via executive authority, the labor and employment community should prepare for significant change.