Undoubtedly, immigration related issues are among the hottest national topics today. The Administration’s “get-tough policy” has not only resulted in countless raids and criminal charges for employers, but also it has caused a general sense of xenophobia among organizations. How does this translate into your organizational performance? This environment will either cause an often unintentional reduction in immigrant work force, or will result in undue fear of trouble with immigration authorities based on the company’s immigrant friendly hiring practices. Either scenario will negatively effect your organizational performance.
What is to be done? The solution lies in adopting the proper balance between immigrant friendliness and non-discriminatory hiring practices on one hand, while maintaining a legally sufficient immigration compliance program on the other hand.
Initially, organizations should not lose sight of the fact that the law prohibits discriminating against a potential employee on the basis of national origin or citizenship status. Therefore, immigrant friendliness is an integral part of a well performing organization. On the other hand, organizations must adopt an immigration compliance program that is appropriate for its needs. The two principles mentioned above are the key to maintaining proper immigration balance, resulting in improved organizational performance. Here is a short list of steps to maintain that balance:
- Non-discriminatory practices. Advise and remind your key Human Resource personnel that one of the reasons for our national success is that we are a melting pot. The United States has a longstanding tradition of welcoming immigrants; indeed, we are truly a nation of immigrants. Therefore, any potential employee who is authorized to work in the United States ought to have the same employment opportunities as anyone else, regardless of his/her national origin or citizenship. The hiring decision should be based on the applicant’s qualifications and not subject to improper discrimination.
- Immigration compliance policies and principles. If you have not already done so, you must re-write or amend your employee/policy manual to reflect your immigration compliance principals.
- Audit your I-9 files. I-9’s are forms that each employer must present to each employee within three days of the start of the employment, to be filled out partially by the employee and partially by the employer. I-9 forms must be retained by the employer for three years after the start of the employment, or one year after the termination of employment, whichever is longer. I-9 forms are designed to help employers maintain a legal workforce. Internal audit of your I-9 files will result in assurance that any inadvertent mistakes will be addressed before a potential audit by the Government.
- Employee training. Immigration compliance training of your employees, especially HR and management personnel is imperative to assure that your policy of immigrant friendliness and compliance with immigration laws is properly met.
- Get help when help is needed. Remember, whenever facing an immigration issue or challenge, you are better off seeking professional help in dealing with that immigration concerns. The biggest mistake an organization could make is to ignore an immigration issue. When facing an immigration challenge, face it, address it, and seek professional help when the challenge can not be easily addressed within the organization.
Amir Farzaneh is the head of the Immigration Law Department of the Oklahoma City office of Hall, Estill, Hardwick, Gable, Golden & Nelson, P.C.
Amir Farzaneh is a frequent speaker and a frequent writer on immigration law issues. He has co-authored three books about immigration law. He is the newsletter co-chair and editor for the Immigration Committee of the ABA Section of Litigation.
Amir Farzaneh is a past president of the South Oklahoma City Lawyers Association, and a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association. He is admitted to practice in Oklahoma and Texas, in addition to the United States Supreme Court, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, the Western District of Oklahoma Federal Court, and all Immigration Courts nationwide.