Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has turned down a farm labor association that was trying to acquire safe harbor for employers assisting foreign employees in applying for temporary legal work status. The request was rejected by ICE in spite of employee safe harbor being granted by a sister agency.
On February 27th Washington Farm Labor Association (WAFLA) director Dan Fazio wrote to the director of ICE, Sarah Saldana, requesting that safe harbor was granted to employers. The Obama administration has used executive action to create two programs that provide some undocumented immigrants with protection from deportation, as well as legal work permits, and Fazio noted that employees who wish to apply for one of the deferred action programs might have to seek their employment records from their employers; however, if they did so and admitted their legal status, their employer would have to dismiss them or potentially face prosecution and audit for hiring illegal workers.The assistant director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Traci Lembke, replied to Fazio in a letter dated March 30th insisting that employees had to have legal authorization to work in the United States at the time they were hired.
WAFLA is advising employers to give employees their employment records only if there is no mention of deferred action or their legal status. “I can’t conceive of anyone going after an employer who helped out a worker, but I’ve seen weirder stuff from government,” Fazio noted.