President Obama's November 2014 announcement of planned immigration reform could have far-reaching effects on U.S. businesses. In particular, employers should be watching for changes that could impact their internal hiring and staffing procedures, as well as potential labor gaps if newly authorized workers decide to look for higher-paying jobs.
The President's proposed immigration reform plan includes these employer-related components
Pathway to Temporary Stay in the U.S.
The Administration's plan calls for a pathway allowing more than four million undocumented immigrants to temporarily stay in the U.S. Under this provision, an undocumented immigrant who is the parent of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident and who has lived in this country for at least five years may apply for deferred action and employment authorization for a period of three years.
Timeline for Implementation and Mandatory Requirements
Those who qualify for the application process, scheduled to kick off in spring 2015, will be required to pay taxes and file returns on wages earned, but will also be issued a Social Security Number. In order to be approved for temporary status, these individuals will have to pay a penalty, pass a background check, and learn to speak English.
Expanding Work Authorization for High-Skilled Workers
President Obama's immigration reform plan also calls for streamlining legal immigration to boost the economy by expanding work authorization for high-skilled workers. Also, modest increases are expected for businesses seeking additional visas for skilled foreign workers.
The Obama Administration is optimistic that these planned changes to our current immigration system will favorably impact the nation's economy. As noted on whitehouse.gov, "According to analysis by the President's Council on Economic Advisers (CEA), the President's executive action would boost economic output by an estimated 0.4 to 0.9 percent over ten years, corresponding to increases in GDP of $90 billion to $210 billion in 2024."
The Administration further states that the President's executive action on immigration reform will trigger an increase in the size of the American workforce. According to the CEA, the economy will benefit from an expansion of the labor force by nearly 150,000 people over 10 years as a result of this action.
As of this writing, there is a temporary injunction on President Obama’s executive action with regard to the implementation of Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) (scheduled to take effect on February 18) and the proposed expansion of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). The order was in response to a lawsuit filed by 26 states challenging the implementation of DAPA and expansion of DACA. Congress has also attempted to pass legislation which would repeal or block the Presidents Executive Orders related to immigration. Employers are encouraged to watch for developments in the coming months and to continue to monitor communications from the White House, and the USCIS.