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National Restaurant Association - White House implements new policy on young immigrants

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White House implements new policy on young immigrants

A new Obama Administration policy that lets certain young immigrants apply for "deferred-action" immigration status and temporary work authorization is now underway.

The change applies to qualified young immigrants who arrived in the U.S. before their 16th birthday and who were under age 31 with no valid immigration status on June 15, 2012. If these individuals can submit applications showing they meet a series of criteria, they can request deferred-action status that halts deportations and some other enforcement actions.

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said in June that her agency supported the change because prosecutors consider these young immigrants "low-priority individuals" for enforcement action. While the DHS policy represents a shift in the agency’s approach to prosecuting and deporting certain young people, it does not provide legal status for any individual.

The DHS's U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services will rule on deferred-action applications on a case-by-case basis. To qualify, individuals must be able to show they have continuously resided in the United States for at least five years prior to June 15, 2012. They must show they are in school or have graduated from high school, obtained a GED certificate, or are an honorably discharged veteran. Finally, they must not have been convicted of felonies or certain misdemeanors.

The DHS released instructions Aug. 15 to guide qualified young people in filing for deferred-action status. To request consideration, individuals must submit a new Form I-821D, Consideration of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, to USCIS.

Individuals seeking temporary work authorization must also submit a Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, and a Form I-765WS, Worksheet, establishing their economic need for employment. Once completed applications are received and reviewed, the agency will then require biometric and biographic background checks before it will approve any request. If approved, individuals could receive work authorization for two years.

Nothing about the process changes employers' current legal obligation to verify that all employees they hire are eligible to work in the United States. Employers must continue to follow current rules on employment verification, including completing an I-9 form to verify the identity and work authorization of all new hires.

The National Restaurant Association supports immigration reforms that expand employers' ability to hire a legal workforce. "Young workers are a core part of the restaurant industry's workforce," said the NRA's Angelo Amador, vice president, labor and workforce policy. "We support more legal employees in the workforce. This seems to be a positive step, but proper implementation will be key to its success or failure."

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