For Those with Jobs, Deferred Action Raises Thorny Questions

The new immigration policy, deferred action, which went into effect last month, could allow as many as 80,000 New Yorkers to work legally for the first time. But it comes with a risk for some who already been working using fraudulent documents — the risk of getting fired.

Tamar Jacoby, president of Immigration Works USA, a national federation of small business owners working to change immigration laws, says deferred action applicants could put employers in a tough spot.

“If an employee goes to the employer and says, ‘I’m applying for deferred action. I need a letter from you saying I worked here,’ the employer is basically in a position where they have to terminate the person,” Jacoby said.

Fines for continuing to employ unauthorized immigrants range from $375 to $16,000 per violation, and can amount to criminal penalties when there is a pattern or practice of violations.

Immigration attorney Michael Mandel said his advice to an employer would be straightforward.  

“As much as you want to keep employing the individual, you as a company are not allowed to,” Mandel said. “You know for certain, right now, that this person cannot work legally, so you have to take them of the payrolls. Once they get their work permission through this deferred action process, assuming it works out for them, then you can re-hire them.”

Administration officials have declined to say whether companies that have hired undocumented immigrants will be penalized if that information is revealed in the deferred action applications.