President Announces Executive Actions on Immigration

Last night, President Obama announced a series of immigration executive actions relating to border security, deportation proceedings, and undocumented immigrants, including action to defer deportation for certain individuals that in effect provides them with temporary legal status and the ability to work legally.

It is unclear to what extent these executive actions will apply to any undocumented workers in the horse industry. But it is very likely that there are workers in the horse industry who meet these requirements and will benefit from the President’s actions. Certainly there are experienced workers in the horse industry who lack proper immigration status and do not have valid residency documents. It is impossible at this point to tell how many and whether they would continue to work in the horse industry once provided general work authorization.

Specifically, the President has directed the Department of Homeland Security to create a new deferred action program for people who are parents of U.S. Citizens or Lawful Permanent Residents and have lived in the United States for five years or longer, if they register, pass a background check, and pay taxes. Such Individuals will have the opportunity to request temporary relief from deportation and work authorization for three years at a time if they come forward and register, submit biometric data, pass background checks, pay fees, and show that their child was born before the date of the President’s announcement.

Additionally, individuals who were brought to the United States as children can apply for this deferred action program if they entered before January 1, 2010, regardless of how old they are today.

Many specific details have yet to be announced. It is unclear at this time if Congress will move to block these executive actions and/or when this new deferred deportation program will begin. The Secretary of Homeland Security is expected to issue new guidelines shortly on how the executive actions will be applied and enforced. The immigration executive actions and new programs will continue until ended by some Congressional action, by the next President, or by the passage of a comprehensive immigration bill.

Comprehensive immigration reform has been a priority of the horse industry for many years. The difficulty horse farms, horse shows, trainers and others have had recruiting American workers has forced many to rely on foreign workers and utilize both the H-2A and H-2B temporary foreign worker programs to meet their labor needs. However, these current programs are not reliable and are extremely burdensome to use.

In addition, many of the workers employed in the industry may lack legal status. Deporting these workers would have a devastating effect on the farms, ranches, training facilities, and trainers who have relied upon them for years. A way to permanently legalize such workers is critical to the industry.

The President’s action does not fix or even address the many problems with the H-2A and H-2B programs or address undocumented workers that don’t meet the requirements for this new program. For these reasons it remains critical that the Administration and Congress take action on comprehensive immigration reform.