USCIS Releases First Round of DACA Data, Promises Protection of Employer Information

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U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Sept. 14 announced that it has completed 29 deferred action for childhood arrivals (DACA) requests out of some 82,000 applications received since Aug. 15, adding that it does not plan on sharing employers' information with Immigration and Customs Enforcement for enforcement purposes.

As of Sept. 13, USCIS had received 82,361 DACA applications, scheduled 63,717 biometrics appointments, set up 1,660 applications for final adjudication, and completed 29 applications. The agency said the biometrics numbers may be inflated because of rescheduling requests.

Christopher Bentley, a USCIS spokesman, clarified Sept. 17 that the numbers merely show that the agency has made a final determination on 29 applications--they do not indicate that all of those applications have been approved. Bentley said USCIS is not releasing numbers of approved versus denied DACA applications.

Announced June 15 and launched two months later, DACA averts deportation of and provides work authorization to illegal immigrants who came to the United States as children and who meet certain criteria.

Those criteria include that the immigrant is under 31 years old and entered the United States when he or she was younger than 16 years old; has continuously resided in the United States since June 15, 2007; is currently in school, graduated from high school, obtained a general education development (GED) certificate, or was an honorably discharged military veteran; and has not been convicted of a felony or significant misdemeanor.

Assurance Provided to Employers

Also on Sept. 14, USCIS updated its frequently asked questions on DACA, most notably including an assurance to employers that their information, if provided to verify DACA applicants' employment, will not be handed over to ICE for enforcement purposes.

“You may, as you determine appropriate, provide individuals requesting deferred action for childhood arrivals with documentation which verifies their employment,” USCIS said in its FAQs. “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.”

Practitioners and immigrant advocates earlier had expressed concern that USCIS was assuring DACA applicants that information they submitted would not be used against them for enforcement purposes--but a similar assurance was not being provided to employers.

Muzaffar Chishti, director of the Migration Policy Institute Office at the New York University School of Law, said at an Aug. 7 MPI event that much of the documentation contained in DACA application packages would come from employers because they have consistent records, and that in order for the program to run smoothly, employers need an assurance that they will not be prosecuted.

'A Very Positive Development'

Chishti Sept. 17 called USCIS's statement about use of employers' information “a very positive development,” telling BNA that the agency responded to “a very legitimate concern by employers that if they provide information about current or past employment of a DACA applicant, that it could potentially trigger an investigation” into their employment practices.

As with the DACA program as a whole, Chishti said, the employer assurance in the FAQs lacks the “classic protections of a regulation or a statute.”

Chishti explained that DACA applicants' ability to obtain employment verification documents can be critical for proving some of the eligibility criteria, in particular age and physical presence in the United States.

Greg Siskind, a founding partner of Siskind Susser in Memphis, Tenn., told BNA Sept. 18 that employers are not completely off the hook, just that “there's not going to be data mining of applications for DACA” for purposes of prosecuting employers. He said the statement from USCIS “should make employers a little less nervous.”

Employers Should Remain Cautious

At the same time, Siskind said he stands by the advice he gave during a Sept. 7 call sponsored by ImmigrationWorks USA (63 BTM 302, 9/18/12), that employers still should avoid situations where they might gain knowledge that one or more of their employees are undocumented.

While it is now less likely that ICE will prosecute employers who provide DACA information, they should not be “actively assisting” their employees in completing applications, Siskind said.

Both Chishti and Siskind said they did not believe that Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, if elected president in November, would end DACA, but rather would likely modify the program.

Speaking to the impact of the DACA program, Siskind said it would likely cause an influx of educated and newly work-authorized individuals to address “worker shortages in key areas.”

DACA “is going to be helpful for employers in the long run,” Siskind said.

By Laura D. Francis  


USCIS's FAQs and other information on DACA are available at http://www.uscis.gov/childhoodarrivals.