DACA: What HR Professionals Should Do



Once again HR professionals find themselves at the center of the national debate over immigration reform.  Earlier this year I wrote about how HR professionals should prepare their organizations to respond to uncertainty created by the travel ban and the Buy American Hire American executive order.  This time HR professionals must help their organizations and employees work through President Trump’s phase out of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program which will end on March 5, 2018 unless Congress passes legislation providing relief.

Almost 800,000 individuals currently have work authorization under DACA, a program established in 2012 by President Obama to help young people who had grown up in the United States without legal immigration status.  According to the Migration Policy Institute, over seventy-five percent of DACA recipients are employed in a range of entry-level and white collar occupations across the country.  To demonstrate work authorization at the time of hire, DACA recipients would have presented an employment authorization document (EAD) with an expiration date.

As HR professionals responsible for I-9 and E-Verify compliance as well as employee engagement and workforce planning, there are three important dates to keep in mind and four action items you should consider:

Key Dates

1.    September 5, 2017:  USCIS will not process new DACA applications received after this date. Applications received on or before September 5, 2017 will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

2.    October 5, 2017:  DACA recipients whose work authorization will expire between September 5, 2017 and March 5, 2018 must file an application to renew their status by October 5, 2017. 

3.    March 5, 2018: Date on which the Trump Administration will rescind DACA  unless Congress acts to save it.

Action Items

1.    Assess your current workforce.  You may or may not know which employees are DACA recipients.  You must balance carefully the need to do workforce planning around positions that may be vacated with the rights of employees (and prospective employees) not to be discriminated against.  Do not terminate employees or reject applicants merely in anticipation that they may lose their work authorization at a future date, and do not make inquiries of specific individuals to determine if they are DACA recipients if they have not volunteered that information. Employer also should not be reviewing copies of documents in I-9 files in an attempt to determine who is a DACA recipient.

2.    Communicate with your workforce.  The DACA announcement has created a great deal of anxiety for DACA recipients, their families and their coworkers and friends.  Consider what level of support your organization can provide.  At minimum, inform your workforce that there is a short window through October 5, 2017 in which some DACA recipients may be eligible to apply for extensions of their status.  Consider town hall meetings, hotlines or other ways for employees to share their concerns with you. Your employee assistance plan (EAP) may also be able to provide emotional or legal support to your employees.

3.    Engage managers and leadership. Leaders in many organizations have made public or organization-wide statements in support of DACA and their employees. Many others are engaging in advocacy efforts on Capitol Hill. Talk to your leaders about what is best for your organization.  Educate managers about how DACA may impact their teams and their legal obligations not to discriminate against affected employees.

4.    Stay informed. While we remain hopeful that our elected leaders can reach a compromise, it is unlikely to be a straight or easy path. Even if a deal is reached, it is possible that the eligibility terms and conditions may change.  It is also possible that no deal could be reached or that the phase-out could be extended. The best thing to do is stay informed so you are prepared for whatever happens.

Feel free to contact me at Lynn.Shotwell@cfgi.org.


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