Federal officials look more now to businesses to check for immigration than in years past, an attorney who handles such cases said.
Carol Armstrong, who has offices in both Tuscaloosa, Ala. and Starkville, provided a talk for those gathered at the Greater Starkville Development Partnership Power Breakfast Thursday on immigration law.
“The federal government has decided to start holding employers accountable under the immigration laws. Five years ago, a lot of folks didn’t even know what a form I-9 was. ... Business owners ... didn’t work about it and they really didn’t have to,” Armstrong said.
“For years, it was a non-issue. ... It’s a different landscape now,” she said.
After Sept. 11, 2001, the federal government established the Department of Homeland Security. Within this agency are three immigration-related operations: Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, Customs and Border Protection and Citizenship and Immigration Services.
Armstrong laid out some basic information on immigration.
There are paths to permanent residency and these include employment, family and spouses, refugees and asylum.
In her presentation, Armstrong said that while most employers want to comply with immigration laws, their policies for hiring and training may not be enough to ensure compliance. Some of the challenges employers face include counterfeit document use, a rise in identity theft, complex rules and laws, numerous regulatory requirements and a deficiency in governmental guidance.
Armstrong recommends employers ensure they are using the most current I-9 immigration form.
The solution to the illegal immigration issue isn’t easy, she said.
“If they’ve entered illegally they don’t have a process where they can get their green card. ... It’s not available to them,” Armstrong said.
If they go back to their home country to try to apply for legal entry into the United States, they’re barred from entering for a period of three to 10 years, she said.
The options in addressing immigration are round them all up and deport them and or change the law and let them stay assuming they don’t have criminal records. “Under our current laws, there’s no way for them to get legal,” Armstrong said, and they don’t have a way to leave and come back in, going through the proper channels.
“So they stay. Period,” she said.