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Will executive orders address immigration-related business interests?

While the White House has recently been somewhat silent on the important-- and always controversial -- issue of immigration, news reports have indicated that President Obama is poised to make a major announcement shortly after the upcoming Labor Day holiday weekend.

Specifically, these reports have detailed that the President will likely be turning to executive actions to accomplish some degree of immigration reform given that the House of Representatives will likely not be taking up the legislation calling for the overhaul of U.S. immigration law.

These executive actions would likely call for the expansion of preexisting programs granting both safe harbor and work permits to those undocumented immigrants who meet certain conditions, and also make changes to current deportation policies.

While this is certainly very interesting, administration officials have indicated there has also been some discussion about the possibility of executive actions addressing immigration priorities outlined by U.S. businesses, particularly tech companies.

Some of the changes to immigration law called for these tech companies include the following:

  • Excluding dependents from the annual allocation of employment-based green cards, a step that advocates say could essentially double the number of green cards. Under the current system, when a worker is issued a green card, their spouse may also qualify to come to the U.S. However, both parties are counted toward the annual quota of 140,000 available green cards.
  • Recapturing employment-based green cards from prior years, a step that advocates say could create over 200,000 new green cards.

Interestingly, the very tech companies and business interests that have lobbied the White House for immigration law changes all summer have also expressed their doubts as to whether some of these changes could be legally accomplished via the mechanism of an executive order.

It is worth noting that the agricultural sector, which has a large stake in any immigration reform discussions, has not been altogether vocal in its support of the Obama administration taking this aggressive tack. Indeed, insiders say it may be due to concerns about potentially jeopardizing congressional action further down the line.

It will be fascinating to see what the President decides to do regarding executive orders and immigration, and what response is undertaken by opposition in Congress.

Stay tuned for developments ...

Those employers with concerns regarding employment-based immigration should strongly consider speaking with an experienced legal professional to learn more about how they can accomplish their goals.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, "Obama weighing business-friendly immigration actions," Laura Meckler, Aug. 18, 2014

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