What does the Immigration Reform Executive Decision Mean to the American Workplace? | DCR Workforce Blog

What does the Immigration Reform Executive Decision Mean to the American Workplace?

“… we shall not oppress a stranger, for we know the heart of a stranger—we were strangers once, too.”

Last Thursday will probably prove to be a red letter day in the history of America with far-reaching consequences. In a short 15 minute address, the President exercised his Executive Decision power to make radical changes to the American immigration laws.

As with all reforms, some find them falling short while others oppose them on principle and want to have them revoked. Many tread the middle line between xenophobia and a total acceptance of illegal immigrants who operate in a gray economy.

In taking this action, is the President reflecting the will of the people? It depends on the “facts” one wants to examine. The Supreme Court has strongly advised the exercise of discretion in deporting an immigrant who has illegally entered the United States. Many previous Presidents also favored the granting of immunity to certain groups of immigrants. All parties agree that decisive action is definitely required, but is legalizing 5 million out of an estimated 11 million illegal immigrants the answer?

While this highly charged issue can be examined from many angles, DCR Workforce is focused solely on the implications for the American workforce.   Others are better qualified to speak to its legality and constitutionality, cultural and social implications. The Executive Decision takes the following actions that impact the rights of undocumented workers to be employed in the U.S.:

  • By registering and passing criminal and national security background checks, millions of undocumented immigrants will start paying their fair share of taxes and temporarily stay in the U.S. without fear of deportation for three years at a time.
  • By providing individuals with an opportunity to come out of the shadows and work legally, the IRS will identify and crack down on companies who hired undocumented workers, undermining the wages of all workers.
  • None of the five million immigrants who will be given new legal protections will get government subsidies for health care under the Affordable Care Act.
  • Farm workers will not receive specific protection from deportation, nor will the Dreamers’ parents.
  • Under the current system, employees with approved Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) applications often wait many years for their visa to become available. The Executive Decision will make regulatory changes to allow these workers to move or change jobs more easily. In addition, certain H-1B spouses can receive employment authorization as long as the H-1B spouse has an approved LPR application.
  • The Executive Decision will expand immigration options for foreign entrepreneurs who meet certain criteria for creating jobs, attracting investment, and generating revenue in the U.S.  The criteria will include income thresholds so that these individuals are not eligible for certain public benefits like welfare or tax credits under the Affordable Care Act.
  • The government will clarify its guidance on temporary L-1 visas for foreign workers who transfer from a company’s foreign office to its U.S. office. The Department of Labor (DOL) will modernize the labor market test that is required of employers that sponsor foreign workers for immigrant visas while ensuring that American workers are protected.
  • Due to barriers in our system, U.S. citizens and LPRs are often separated for years from their immediate relatives while waiting to obtain their LPR status. To reduce the time these individuals are separated, the Executive Decision will expand an existing program that allows certain individuals to apply for a provisional waiver for certain violations before departing the United States to attend visa interviews.
  • The Executive Decision will clarify its guidance to provide greater assurance to individuals with a pending LPR application or certain temporary status permission to travel abroad with advance permission.
  • The President is issuing a Memorandum directing an interagency group to recommend ways in which our legal immigration system can be modernized to reduce government costs, eliminate redundant systems, reduce burdens on employers and families, and eliminate fraud.

In taking this action, the President provided the following justifications:

  • Through this action, immigrants are protected from the criminal intent of others who use that illegal status to exploit them.
  • We cannot ignore the fact that they are already here! They are a part of this country; they have built families here, live and work here at jobs which others would consider tough and low-paid.
  • By relaxing the visa system as it applies to those working under H-1B visas, America benefits from greater access to in demand skills. By allowing employment visas for spouses of those working under an H-1B visa, we are paving the way for more talent to become available.
  • This action will also enable the government to ferret out and take action against employers who have illegally been hiring these workers “under the table”, paying wages below minimum wage and failing to pay required employment taxes.

Let us wait and see how things go with its implementation; as this action is definitely a case of fixing something that is truly broken. We can expect a strong response from the opposition, particularly in light of the outcome of the recent elections which dramatically changes the composition of Congress. In the meantime, the Executive Decision moves forward. Let us all hope that all future debate on this subject can set aside the emotional responses and address the specific actions outlined in the Executive Decision.

The content on this blog is for informational purposes only and cannot be construed as specific legal advice or as a substitute for competent legal advice. They reflect the opinions of DCR Workforce and may not reflect the opinions of any individual attorney. Do contact an attorney for advice specific to your issue or problem.
Lalita is a people/project manager with extensive experience in operations, HCM and training and development across industries like banking, education, business consulting, BPO and information technology. She believes in a dynamic approach to life and learning as change is the only constant.