“It’s time for us to take care of business,” President Barack Obama announced to the press after the elections last week. The administration may take executive action on immigration soon. With most of those races now decided, the President sounded a note of impatience: “I can’t wait another two years,” he said in the briefing. A “broad package of changes” to immigration policy reportedly is under discussion within the White House and at DHS and the President may make his announcement by the end of November.
Changes could include a legalization program for farm workers along the lines of the “AgJOBS” bill, which was considered in Congress but shelved because of concerns over “amnesty” being offered to the more than three million unauthorized agricultural workers estimated to be in the United States. A less controversial group of potential beneficiaries may be unauthorized aliens who are married to U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents. The third group under discussion is parents of the “Dreamer” children, who currently benefit from DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) relief implemented by President Obama in 2012. Speculation surrounding this last group is fueled by an October DHS draft solicitation seeking a vendor to produce millions of government identification cards.
House Speaker John Boehner criticized the President’s talk of unilateral action, stating, “[The President]’s going to burn himself,” and indicating “no chance” for comprehensive immigration reform this term unless the President engages with Republicans on bi-partisan legislation. Whether political posturing or genuine cooperation and open debate will determine the fate of immigration reform efforts remains to be seen, but employers should anticipate change that may dramatically affect the pool of legal workers.