How Obama’s Plan for a 21st Century Immigration System Impacts Employers
President Obama has been making headlines with his plan for Building a 21st Century Immigration System. You should make sure you know what the plan is and how it may impact you. The core tenets are:
- Secure Borders – “Enforcement resources should be focused on preventing those who would do our nation harm.”
- Accountability for Businesses – “Employers who deliberately hire and exploit undocumented workers must be held accountable. At the same time, we must give employers who want to play by the rules a reliable way to verify that their employees are here legally” [E-Verify].
- Strengthen Economic Competitiveness – “The law should stop punishing innocent young people whose parents brought them here illegally and give those young men and women a chance to stay in this country if they serve in the military or pursue higher education. A smart 21st century system should also provide farmers a legal way to hire the workers they rely on year after year, and it should improve procedures for employers who seek to hire foreign workers for jobs if U.S. workers are not available.”
- Responsibility from Illegals – “Those people living here illegally must also be held accountable for their actions and get on the right side of the law by registering an undergoing national security and criminal background checks, paying taxes and a penalty, and learning English before they can get in line to become eligible for citizenship.”
The plan also highlights updated statistics on ICE’s worksite enforcement strategy, stating that: “In April 2009, DHS launched a new worksite enforcement strategy designed to penalize employers who knowingly hire illegal workers and who are involved in related crimes such as trafficking, smuggling, harboring, document fraud, and money laundering. DHS has implemented this strategy through robust use of audits of employment verification records, civil fines and debarment, and by promoting compliance tools. Since January 2009, ICE has audited more than 4,600 employers suspected of hiring illegal labor, debarred 317 companies and individuals, and imposed approximately $61 million in financial sanctions…”
It also touts the use of the E-Verify Self-Check Program that allows individuals in the United States to access their employment eligibility status and make corrections to their records, if necessary, before applying for jobs. It allows individuals to know ahead of time what the E-Verify result will be if they are hired and processed by the employer.
The document also cites the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) as estimating that last year’s DREAM Act, which helps keep educated young people that were brought here by their parents in the U.S., would reduce the deficit by $1.4 billion over the next 10 years.
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) was cited as estimating that undocumented immigrants paid almost $50 billion in federal taxes between 1996-2003 (about $8.5 billion per year). They stated approximately 40% of undocumented immigrants work off the books and consequently pay lower taxes. It is then deduced that getting these undocumented workers on the books will increase both the taxes paid by these workers and the taxes paid by their employers.
The Whitehouse plan for moving forward says: “New ideas must be incorporated and should include tough but fair procedures to crack down on illegal border crossers, traffickers, smugglers and criminals, employers who hire illegal workers, and those who overstay their visas.” It goes on to say, “We must also reduce the incentives for people to cross the border illegally by increasing interior and workplace enforcement.”
Proposals for change include:
- Increasing existing penalties and sanctions, with particular emphasis paid to immigration-related criminal prosecution efforts;
- Mandatory electronic employment verification that builds off the existing E-Verify system to ensure employees are eligible to work in the U.S.
- Allow unauthorized workers to get right with the law by registering and obtaining proper legal documentation
- Phasing in mandatory use of E-Verify system (employers with 1000+ employees first, then others will phase in)
- Providing “safe harbor” for employers who employ undocumented workers, if they used the E-Verify system
- Piloting the development of a biometric indentifier that could be used for employment verification in the future
- more ICE I-9 audits
- mandatory use of E-Verify
- larger fines for hiring and harboring illegal workers
- harsher criminal sentences for hiring and harboring illegal workers