Immigration Reform

Published February 20, 2015

Last November, President Obama issued executive orders to address immigration reform. The actions included new policies and directives that would impact millions of foreign nationals, both documented and undocumented, living and working in the U.S. The most significant changes are the deferred action policies that would provide temporary work permits, some benefits, and protection from deportation for an estimated 4.3 million unauthorized aliens and provide legal status to illegal aliens who were brought to the U.S. as children, provided each group meets certain criteria. An additional provision would impact the process for U.S. employers to hire and retain highly skilled foreign workers. 

On February 16, just two days before the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services was to start accepting applications for the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) and the proposed expansion of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) programs, a federal judge in Texas issued an injunction that temporarily blocked the programs. Supported by lawsuits filed by 26 states, U.S. District Judge Andrew S. Hanen issued the injunction on the grounds that the administration had not followed correct procedures in establishing the program. White House officials have indicated the Department of Justice will appeal the court’s decision and likely request an emergency order to stay the injunction and allow the program to move forward while the court makes a decision on the appeal.

The injunction, however, does not resolve Congress’ inability to ensure funding for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) after February 28, 2015. Currently, a House measure that would ensure funding to DHS past February 28, 2015, but only on the condition that the administration’s immigration efforts are not implemented, remains stalled in the Senate. In the event of a temporary DHS shutdown, approximately 85 percent of the agency’s employees, those labeled “essential,” will continue to work, while others are likely to be furloughed. The agency will also likely continue to process applications, as application fees are used to pay agency workers.

Paychex will continue to monitor and report on the developments of immigration reform.