The end of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program after five years will have a detrimental impact on the U.S. economy. Nearly 91% of the 800,000 DACA recipients are employed. Some studies report that eliminating DACA would cost $433.4 billion in GDP, and reduce Social Security and Medicare tax contributions by $24.6 billion over a decade. More immediately, if no solution is found for the DACA workers and the businesses that employ them, the end of DACA will disrupt many businesses and industries to some extent, particularly the healthcare industry where roughly 20 percent of DACA immigrants are employed.
What do employers need to know about DACA and the termination of the program?
- Employment eligibility. The DACA employment authorization document (EAD) that authorizes employment continues to be valid until the date of expiration indicated on the card. Employers must follow I-9 employment verification and reverification rules and should not terminate employment solely on the basis of an impending EAD expiration date.
- Possible Extension. DACA workers whose EAD expires on or before March 5, 2018 can and should apply for renewal before October 5, 2017. Doing so could extend DACA and work permission for another two years. Those whose DACA/EAD expires after March 5, 2018 cannot apply for an extension.
- International Travel Restrictions. International travel, including Canada and Mexico, may be off limits to DACA workers, even for work purposes. Advance Parole, i.e. special permission to return to the U.S., is required for DACA recipient to travel internationally. The government will no longer accept new requests for advance parole. Even if your DACA employee already has unexpired advance parole, travel is not advisable since advance parole does not guarantee re-entry into the U.S. and can be terminated revoked at any time. Domestic travel, including travel to U.S. territories, is allowed.
- Potential Deportation or Termination. According to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), those with unexpired DACA should not be arrested or deported, unless they are disqualified through commission of a new crime or other factors. However, even with an unexpired DACA and work permit, DHS has wide discretion and can terminate these benefits for any reason.
What can employers do to help their DACA employees?
- Talk to a Lawyer. A qualified immigration lawyer can evaluate whether your employee has other legal options to get temporary or permanent status such as an H-1B visa or green card through their employment with your company. For example, if you have difficulty finding workers with your DACA employee's skill set, you could apply for labor certification through the Department of Labor and DHS if the employee's immigration history warrants it.
- Advocate for Dreamers. Congress can and should offer a permanent solution. There are several DREAMER bills in Congress, including the Dream Act of 2017 (S.1615, H.R.3440) and American Hope Act of 2017 (H.R.3591). Contact your senator and congressional representative and voice your support for these bills.
I hope the article helps you understand basic immigration requirements, but please don't consider it as legal advice or legal opinion about your specific circumstances.
Immigration rules are complex so contact a qualified immigration attorney to determine options.
For legal advice and guidance for your unique situation, you are invited to schedule an immigration strategy session with me.