The Trump Administration recently announced their plans to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA) and wind it down over the next six months. Since 2012, DACA has protected nearly 800,000 young adult undocumented immigrants from deportation. Cook Ross consultants Minjon Tholen and Eric Peterson teamed up with attorney Heidi Snyder of RSST Law Group to offer advice on what employers and diversity and inclusion (D&I) practitioners can do.
It’s first important to recognize that DACA was never law. As Attorney Heidi Snyder explains, “DACA was created as an exercise of prosecutorial discretion to defer the deportation of young, undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children who met the conditions
That said, DACA has helped hundreds of thousands of individuals who were raised in this country contribute to our economy. They are not allowed to have criminal records, must be employed or in school, and must pay taxes. Apple estimates it has 250 Dreamers on staff (not all of which may or may not be DACA recipients, by the way), and so it’s clear that a significant portion of American companies’ workforces can be impacted by the Trump administration’s decision.
Here’s what employers can do.
Increase Safety and Empathy
If you are not familiar with the immigration experience,
HR and D&I professionals should do what they can to support Dreamers during this time of a heightened sense of anxiety. Recognize that uncertain times affect the wellbeing and psychological safety of your employees at work and at home. Consider that they might not be the only one affected; they may also carry the stress of what any friends and family members in the same situation are going through.
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On a pragmatic level, employers can take the following steps to ease employees’ anxieties:
- Provide a list of reputable immigration attorneys. There are other laws and provisions that may allow your employees to stay in the country, but unfortunately, when fear is high, shady characters come out of the woodwork to take advantage of people. Your company’s legal counsel should be able to generate a list of reputable attorneys who are qualified to litigate immigration law. Employers may also want to consider paying for these legal fees.
- Provide staff with “Know Your Rights” handouts. Below are links to handouts from the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and National Immigration Law Center have similar documents. The AILA’s documents are also customizable.
- Ensure DACA staff who are eligible file extension before the October 5th deadline.
- Discourage DACA staff with advance parole from traveling outside of the United States.
- Do NOT terminate DACA employees who have valid work authorization before their work authorization ends.
Include immigration in Diversity & Inclusion work
“In my experience working with senior leaders in many different organizations,” senior consultant Minjon Tholen says, “immigration often is avoided, minimized, misunderstood, and sometimes even considered an HR liability. Instead, we should look to expand the number of diversity dimensions we can embrace. When we can start having frank conversations about topics like these, it can help people feel seen and feel safer.”
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Here are some concrete steps employers can take to include immigration in their D&I work:
- Review your D&I initiatives, HR policies and practices, and employee engagement/support services around immigration identity. Is immigration currently discussed in your organization, alongside other
dimensions likerace, gender, etc.? Do people feel like they can be open about their immigration status as part of being their authentic self? Have you informed managers how to handle immigration matters?
- By extension, how do the same questions apply to H1B or other immigrant statuses? How about refugees awaiting asylum or Muslims from countries included in the travel ban?
- Utilize your Employee Resource Group to create opportunities to hear the diverse needs of DACA recipients, who come from countries as wide-ranging as Mexico, South Korea, Jamaica, El Salvador, Tobago, and India. Consider hosting a panel discussion of DACA recipients for all interested employees, with the goal of teaching citizen employees how to be effective allies in the workplace.
Show Courageous Leadership
“If your organization has codified core values that leaders are expected to personify, then those leaders have an obligation to live those values in your words and actions,” says Eric Peterson. “I encourage you to resist the urge to be apolitical.”
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“That doesn’t mean the organization has to target a politician, but rather that they shouldn’t be afraid to take a clear stand on issues of conscience,” adds Cook Ross Founder Howard Ross. “While it may seem like avoiding the issue is a ‘safe response,’ it actually leaves your employees and your customers uncertain about your core values, which can have
Speaking out against policies that are not in your employees’ or company’s interest, and being vulnerable enough to truly listen to the fears and anxieties of your employees can seem risky. Promising legal protections for an uncertain future can be costly. But it is precisely for these difficult times that your organization’s core values were created. It’s easy to follow these values when times are easy, but they also make deciding on the right course of action easier when times are tough.
Be sure to communicate clearly why the company and its leaders are speaking out (and align those reasons with your values). That’s even more true for large organizations, which likely employ workers of every political stripe: those who support DACA repeal and stricter immigration policy, those who disagree with this change, and those who will be directly affected by it.
Leverage Corporate Citizenship
The Cato Institute estimates that ending DACA will cost employers $6.3 billion in employee turnover costs, including recruiting, hiring, and training 720,000 new employees. It’s no wonder that Microsoft President Brad Smith and Apple CEO Tim Cook have joined over 500 other prominent business leaders who signed a petition by FWD.us, asking President Trump and members of Congress to preserve DACA’s provisions. And there is now a movement to pressure Congress to pass the DREAM Act, which would turn DACA’s provisions into law.
According to Heidi Snyder, corporations are uniquely suited to act politically to support Dreamers:
- Support federal litigation by having corporate legal counsel file amicus briefs such as the lawsuit filed by 16 state attorney generals in NY District Court claiming
violationof the Equal Protection clause of the Constitution by discriminating against Dreamers of Mexican origin.
- Advocate through public statements of support, letters to editors, letters to the White House and letters to Congress about this issue. Below are links to pending legislation with summaries that can help inform your communications.
- Break the Internet. Corporations have a larger social media footprint than most individuals. Feel free to download and share our Twitter and Facebook images below to show your support for Dreamers and passing the DREAM Act.