Government, Human Resources, and Law

Immigration policy expands workforce

January 14, 2015
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Nathaniel Wolf
Nathaniel Wolf. Courtesy Mika Meyers Beckett & Jones

President Barack Obama’s expansion of deferred action to include parents of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents, as part of his executive order on immigration, means employers across the region should be prepared to administer newly eligible workers.

Eligible workers

Once the federal Deferred Action for Parental Accountability program, or DAPA, is implemented, parents of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents who have been present in the country since Jan. 1, 2010 will be able to request deferred action and employment authorization for three years.

President Obama also expanded the eligibility requirements for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, to young people who came to the U.S. before turning 16 years old and who have been present since Jan. 1, 2010. He also extended the period of DACA and work authorization from two years to three years deferred action for children.

“There are a large number of individuals who will now be work eligible,” said Nathaniel Wolf, an attorney at the Grand Rapids office of Mika Meyers Beckett & Jones.

According to the Kent-Ionia Labor Council, which is part of the national AFL-CIO, an estimated four million people stand to benefit from work authorization, 45,000 of them in Michigan.

Eligibility post-Obama

While employers don’t have to do anything differently, there are a few things they may need to think about when hiring a DACA or DAPA work authorization recipient.

Since DACA and DAPA are part of an executive order, the next president can end either program, which means someone who is working legally may not be able to renew their work authorization in the future and continue their employment.

“Under I-9 legal requirements, the DACA or DAPA would have to provide documents that prove their employment eligibility and identity to continue their employment in the United States,” explained Susan Im, an attorney and president of ImLaw in Grand Rapids. “If the DAPA or DACA program were eliminated, then they won’t have ability to renew the employment authorization.”

For instance, if a someone had been granted a three-year work authorization under DACA and had been hired as a teacher, if the DACA program were eliminated and that person is not able to renew their work authorization, the employer would have to end that person’s employment after the three-year period is up.

Wolf said there are a few steps employers should take to ensure compliance with DACA and DAPA work authorizations.

“The number one thing employers will have to be aware of is to put in place a process for reviewing and continuing to review employment authorization,” Wolf said. “Putting in place a process for I-9 reviews, to make sure the individuals given this temporary employment authorization continue to be authorized.

“If the next president comes in and says, ‘I don’t like that program’ — have a system in place where they can review those I-9s. It has to be fairly systematic. You want to review all of your files. You want to make sure you aren’t focusing on particular individuals or groups of individuals.”

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