Businesses left exposed by immigration action

US FlagCompanies that hire low-skilled immigrant workers are concerned that the new immigration policy unveiled by President Obama will leave them exposed to legal problems by giving their employees an incentive to confess that they used fraudulent documents to gain work.

Over four million undocumented immigrants will be protected from deportation from the United States thanks to the president’s decision to take executive action over immigration reform, marking the largest alteration to the country’s immigration system in three decades; however, amid all the controversy, immigrants and their employers have found themselves lost in legal uncertainties as countless people prepare to have their legal status changed. Companies are afraid that an employee who applies for the program will be admitting to being an undocumented immigrant and therefore working illegally, meaning that the employer will also have broken the law by hiring them.

These concerns are being particularly felt in the agriculture, cleaning, construction, food processing and hospitality industries, where large chunks of the workforce comprise immigrants from the Hispanic community, says the president of small business alliance ImmigrationWorksUSA, Tamar Jacoby.

Audits of workplaces are conducted by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which will penalize, and in some cases prosecute companies and employers, that have deliberately hired undocumented immigrants. However, it has been surprisingly easy for many to borrow, steal or fake documents. Guidance for businesses has yet to be issued by the Obama administration.