Though President Obama’s executive actions on immigration reform have stalled in federal court, the policies’ potential impacts on the local level is still much on the minds of some business owners.
Immigration attorney Christopher Worth, who has offices on East Main Street in Riverhead, tried to respond to concerns during a Thursday morning Chamber of Commerce event in Riverhead called Eggs and Issues.
If approved in the courts, the measures would offer work authorization for up to three years to approximately 4.4 million of the roughly 11 million people living in the country without documentation, Mr. Worth said.
To qualify, immigrants here illegally must have lived in the United States for at least five years and have a clean record, among other requirements.
Following Mr. Worth’s presentation, Chamber members asked these questions of the immigration attorney:
Q. What documentation will illegal immigrants need to provide to qualify for the program?
A. First they are going to ask for a passport, that is how the person will establish their identity. Then they are going to need to provide proof of five years of continuous residency. That means they’re going to need five years of documents under the same name showing who they are. Then they need to get fingerprinted and have their pictures taken.
All that information gets run through FBI checks and local police. If there are any arrests they are going to know about it.
Q. Is Driving While Intoxicated considered a “serious offense,” which would prevent an undocumented immigrant from qualifying from the programs?
A. It is. The DWI could have happened 20 years ago and the person would not be eligible for any of these benefits.
Q. What are the current liabilities for business that hire undocumented workers?
A. There are fines. But, the liability only attaches if you failed that good faith effort to look at their documents … It needs to pass the sniff test. The way that works is [the employee] gives you a social security card and it looks real then you can accept that [and won’t be held liable.]
But if for some reason you think it is not real then you would need to do further investigation.
Q. What is next step?
A. The big thing to remember is that it is stuck in court and the things we are talking about may never happen… Hopefully, Congress takes action. Nationally and locally this issue is divisive. It will be interesting to see what happens in [the 2016 presidential election].
Q. Will undocumented workers [applying for the program] be required to provide an employee history?
If so, how could that impact a previous or current employer?
A. They probably will have to write down past employment. That happens with a lot applications [for different programs] that they are already filling out now. The millions of businesses that employ someone that doesn’t have the perfect papers will be OK.
But, for people who are making it their bread and butter, they might have more of an issue.