Rhode Island employers may well have “dreamers” in the workplace – workers who entered the United States before the age of 16 who have benefitted from President Obama’s 2012 executive order establishing the program known as “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals” (“DACA”). The program authorized “prosecutorial discretion” in enforcement of immigration laws to permit undocumented immigrants who came here as children to remain in the U.S. and receive authorization to work here. There are approximately 800,000 dreamers living in the U.S. today, with as many as 2,000 of them living, going to school, and working here in Rhode Island.
On Tuesday, September 5, 2017, the Trump administration announced the termination of the DACA program. If you are a Rhode Island employer with employees whose work authorization is DACA-based, here is what you need to know:
- Nothing has changed yet. DACA-protected workers may remain in their jobs at least until March 5, 2018, when the DACA program will officially end.
- Some DACA-protected workers may have their work authorizations renewed. DACA-protected workers who (a) have already filed renewal requests that are pending as of September 5, 2017, or (b) by October 5, 2017, file renewal requests to extend DACA benefits expiring between September 5, 2017, and March 5, 2018, will have their extension requests considered on a case-by-case basis. No new DACA benefit requests that fall outside these parameters will be considered.
- Current DACA-protected workers will not have their DACA status terminated for the remaining duration of their validity periods. This means that some dreamers may still be able to live and work here for as long as another two (2) years.
- Congress may pass new protections for dreamers living and working in the United States. Dreamers who have grown up here and been educated here may well benefit from legislation that picks up where DACA left off and allows them to remain living and working in the United States.
- Conduct business as usual while new immigration policy decisions take shape. The next national policy decision with regard to workers who came here as children without proper documentation has yet to be made. Employers should sit tight and, without singling out any individual worker, call attention in the workplace generally to the October 5, 2017 deadline for DACA renewal paperwork.