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National Restaurant Association - More than 82,000 applications submitted under new immigration initiative

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More than 82,000 applications submitted under new immigration initiative

The Department of Homeland Security's U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services says it has received more than 82,000 applications since the launch of its "Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals" initiative last month.

The application process is lengthy and USCIS has approved only a handful of applications received so far, the agency noted.

In an updated Frequently Asked Questions section published on its website Sept. 14, USCIS also said it does not plan to share information about businesses where DACA applicants work with the DHS's immigration-enforcement arm, Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The only exception, USCIS said, is where evidence suggests employers have shown "egregious violations of criminal statutes or widespread abuses" of federal immigration laws.

The Obama Administration rolled out the DACA initiative Aug. 15. The initiative allows certain young immigrants who are in the United States illegally to apply for deferred-deportation status and temporary work authorization.

To qualify, young immigrants must have entered the United States before their 16th birthday and have been under age 31 as of June 15, 2012. Individuals must meet a series of other criteria to apply, including being able to show that they have lived in the United States continuously since June 15, 2007. 

Employers and attorneys have raised questions about whether the applications process would trigger ICE investigations of businesses where DACA applicants have worked, since school and jobs records are two likely ways applicants can try to prove their residence in the United States.

In USCIS's updated Q&A, the agency let employers know it doesn't plan to share with ICE workplace information provided by DACA applicants. In the updated information, USCIS tells employers that "You may, as you determine appropriate, provide individuals requesting deferred action for childhood arrivals with documentation which verifies their employment. This information will not be shared with ICE for civil immigration enforcement purposes pursuant to [Immigration and Nationality Act] section 274A unless there is evidence of egregious violations of criminal statutes or widespread abuses.”

Legal experts note that the USCIS's Q&A does not mean ironclad protection for employers from enforcement actions. They remind employers that they are required to follow all U.S. immigration rules, including laws that prohibit employers from knowingly employing or continuing to employ individuals who are not authorized to work in the United States.

In a recent webinar offered by ImmigrationWorks USA, legal experts answered common employer questions about DACA. The National Restaurant Association is a trade association partner of Immigration Works USA, a federation of state-based pro-immigration business coalitions from across the country.

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