In a Tuesday New York Times article, Julia Preston describes an unexpected consequence of President Obama’s Deferred Action Program. Immigrants applying for two-year deportation deferrals can ask employers to verify their job status as one way to meet a requirement showing that they have lived for at least five years in the United States. But employers who agree to those requests could be acknowledging that they knowingly hired an unauthorized worker — a violation of federal law. Many employers of undocumented immigrants fear that the enforcement authorities could one day use the information in their files to prosecute them.
Farmers and other businesses nationwide that rely on low-wage labor face a difficult situation, as they often employ young immigrants who work part time to help pay for college. Other undocumented youths opt to work after dropping out of college, unable to get tuition discounts or financial aid because of their status. According to the Migration Policy Institute, about 740,000 immigrants eligible for deferment are in the work force.
“If you have actual knowledge that an employee is not authorized to work, you can’t employ them,” said Greg Siskind, an immigration lawyer in Memphis who has advised businesses on how to respond to job verification requests.
According to Tamar Jacoby, the president of ImmigrationWorks USA, the phrasing of the employee’s request carries a lot of weight. Those who ask for verification for deportation deferrals are admitting to being unauthorized workers. They might eventually obtain a permit to work legally, but in the meantime, the employer might have to fire them, Ms. Jacoby said.
Peter Boogaard, a Department of Homeland Security spokesman, said the agency is seeking to focus enforcement resources on threats to public safety. He said officials would investigate if workers’ applications pointed to “widespread patterns and practices of unlawful hiring” or “abusive employers who are violating other criminal laws.”
However, many employers and advocates remain concerned. “That’s a safety net with a lot of holes in it,” Ms. Jacoby said. She urges advocates to tell applicants not to mention the deferment program when asking for job verification.