Sean D’Leer and Patty O’Door are the proud owners of STD Contractors, a heavy construction business in Texas. They are starting to see more large commercial development activity and are considering hiring more laborers to staff up for what they hope to be a sustained economic recovery. However, all of the recent news about immigration and United State Supreme Court decisions is making them nervous. They are wondering if immigration law changes will affect them and, if so, how?

Recent Immigration Law Changes

The much publicized and long awaited United States Supreme Court decision in Arizona v. United States was released earlier this month. The Supremes rejected three parts of the Arizona law and upheld what was regarded by many as the “heart” of that law – a provision that allows police to check a person’s immigration status while enforcing other laws if “reasonable suspicion” exists that the person is in the United States illegally. For Texans this case is of interest only to the extent that it indicates the direction of the prevailing national wind on immigration laws and enforcement.

Perhaps a little closer to home is the Administration’s decision earlier this summer to offer immigration protection to younger undocumented immigrants through the “Deferred Action Process for Young People” program. In summary, beneficiaries of the new program must satisfy all the following requirements: (1) be 15-30 years old and have entered the U.S. before age 16; (2) have been present in the U.S. for 5 years as of June 15, 2012; (3) have maintained continuous residence; (4) have not been convicted of one serious crime or multiple minor crimes; and (5) be currently enrolled in high school, graduated or have a GED, or are honorably discharged veterans of the Coast Guard or Armed Forces.

While the “Deferred Action Process for Young People” program opens up previously unavailable immigration benefits, Sean D’Leer and Patty O’Door need not do anything about implementing it as yet.

Tilting the Scales in Your Favor

Federal law requires that employers only employ individuals who are authorized to work in the United States. Employers should be proactive in reminding their employees of the following: (1) the company complies with all immigration laws; (2) nothing in the law has changed related to the employment of individuals who can establish current legal work authorization; and (3) any material difference in the information he or she initially provided the company as it relates to their legal work authorization (immigration status) could lead to his or her termination. The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 12986 (IRCA) requires employers to verify the identity and employment eligibility of all employees hired after November 6, 1986, by completing the Employment Eligibility Verification (I-9) Form and reviewing documents showing the employee’s identity and employment authorization. But NOTE: Employers should not ask whether or not a job applicant is a United States citizen before making an offer of employment. Perhaps we’ll talk more about that next month.