The Edmond Sun

Local News

July 6, 2012

Wait and see: Locals try to decipher immigration policy change

EDMOND — Although illegal immigration is a heavily divided political issue, many say the recently announced deferred action policy will help businesses fill jobs.

In June Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano announced that young people who were brought to the United States illegally will be able to remain and work in the country for two years. But a few criteria must be met, according to the release. President Barack Obama supports this action.

According to the mandate, these people must have come to the U.S. before the age of 16, are younger than 30, have lived in the country for at least five years before June 15, are currently in high school or have graduated from there and do not have a felony conviction, a “significant misdemeanor offense,” or multiple misdemeanors.

This will all be handled on a “case-by-case” basis, Napolitano said.

Applying the Announcement

Oklahoma City attorney Michael Brooks-Jimenez, an immigration attorney, said the mandate isn’t exactly a path to citizenship, but did say it would afford many young people the opportunity to get a Social Security card, driver’s licenses and the ability to get other jobs.

“Win or lose it’s going to have a lasting effect,” Brooks-Jimenez said.

Since the announcement, Brooks-Jimenez said his phone has been ringing constantly with people wanting to know how the law will affect them. He said at this point he is not sure — the details still have 37 days left in the 60 days after the announcement to get worked out.

When asked about proving some parts of the law, Brooks-Jimenez said the ages and the years spent in the country could be proven using public school records, medical records or even a birth certificate from the country they came from.

Other parts, however, are more hazy. He said a significant misdemeanor falls on shaky ground, but said charges such as a DUI or marijuana possession could possibly disqualify people from the act. He said at this point he has no idea what multiple misdemeanors are.

“I think those things are going to develop as we get more detail,” he said.

At the Heartland Landscape Group, an Edmond-based company, Brian Courtney, co-owner of the company, said this law could definitely give him a better selection of employees. Courtney said his company doesn’t hire workers who don’t provided proper documentation.

“We require all of our employees to have proper documentation,” said Chad Hetrick, Heartland co-owner.

Courtney added this would also give them another layer of verification to ensure employees are legal.

“It’s being more legal, more fair for everybody,” said Courtney, who has mostly Hispanic employees.

He said the law probably won’t make a big difference on their work force.

“Most of our guys know where we stand on that position,” Courtney said. “If we ask them to bring somebody, we don’t have problems because we don’t allow it.”

Although Courtney and Hetrick say they don’t have trouble finding staff, they added that some physical labor jobs might because many entail seasonal work.

Courtney added that he’s heard of companies that, because of low turnout, hire illegals or those with questionable paperwork.

But he said if it helps those struggling for employees, then it can have a positive effect overall on labor-based jobs.

“If it helps any manual labor type company — whether it’s roofing, concrete or masonry — I think it helps all of us,” Courtney said.

Brooks-Jimenez cautions people to not act too soon because the law is getting clarified. He said many lawyers who don’t know what they’re doing on the subject might cause someone looking to stay in the country more harm than good.

“People need to wait two months before we have the details,” he said.

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