The Senate Immigration Bill S.744 – Reasons to Cheer?

With all the discussions about the Senate’s immigration bill S.744, it’s hard to keep track of substance from chatter.  Last week, the Senate Judiciary Committee began marking up the long bill.  In the meantime, I’ve dug up a few provisions that gives employers reasons to cheer (though not too loudly).

Last summer, when the Department of Homeland Security announced the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, one of the biggest questions employers had was how the offering of documentation evidencing proof of employment to employees who were applying for DACA could affect the employer’s liability for knowingly employing unauthorized workers.  (Read the article here.)   It was a bit tricky to predict if USICS would pass the information on to ICE, and if so, how ICE would interpret the documentation.  At least with the latest version of the Senate immigration bill S.744, it carves out various provisions that give employers a bit more breathing room!

1. Section 245B: Adjustment of Status to Registered Provisional Immigrant.  While the idea of providing a pathway to citizenship for the (roughly) 11 million “undocumented” individuals in the U.S. is still under much controversy, the treatment of how employers employ these individuals may be shifting a bit.  This proposed provision would allow employers to continue to employ individuals who are in the process of applying for Registered Provisional Immigrant Status.  Employers would not be considered to be violating the provisions under 274A(a)(2) of knowingly continuing to employ an unauthorized worker.

2. Section 2211: Period Pending Adjudication of Application.  Similar to above, this provision allows for an employer to continue employing an individual who has a pending application for a “Blue Card” status.  Employers would not be considered to be violating the provisions under 274A(a)(2) of knowingly continuing to employ an unauthorized worker.

3. Section 245E: Employer Protections:  This provision allows employers to provide “evidence of employment” documents to employees for the purpose of the employee’s Registered Provisional Immigrant Status application without the fear of civil or criminal prosecution or investigation for unlawful employment by the government.

4. Section 2212: Adjustment to Permanent Resident Status.  This provision protects the confidentiality of the information an employer provides in connection with an employee’s application for legal permanent residence from “Blue Card” status.  The documentation may not be used by DHS for any other purpose other than to evaluate the merits of the application or to impose penalties related to “False Statements” in the application.

While the provisions are few compared to the significantly greater onus placed on employers to affirmatively check employment authorization or risk heftier fines, the language in the bill appears to assuage some of the previous concerns employers had raised.  Do you think it’s enough? Please send us your comments.