Administrative Action Could Provide Work Permits for Long-Time Immigrant Spouses of U.S. Citizens

Here is some good news for US businesses seeking to hire workers at a time of unprecedented workforce shortages.  The Wall Street Journal reports that the Biden Administration is currently considering administrative action to create a method for long-time unauthorized migrants who are married to U.S. citizens to obtain work permits. Many of these migrants have U.S. citizen children and have been in the country for decades. For over 1.1 million of these migrants who currently have no viable pathway to earn legal status, this would allow them to come out of the shadows and work legally for employers who deduct and match payroll taxes.  This ID and Tax strategy would help to alleviate inflationary workforce shortages at a time when the U.S. economy has 8.8 Million job openings and an unemployment rate near record lows.  

"Though voters have grown increasingly concerned about unchecked illegal immigration into the U.S., pollsters have found there are two groups that voters feel particularly sympathetic toward—Dreamers and mixed-status couples…Any program would come with a cutoff, so that only spouses who have been married to citizens for at least five or 10 years could qualify. Advocates estimate that of the 1.1 million spouses in the country, fewer than 700,000 would qualify," the Journal reports.

Frustrated with Congressional inaction on immigration policy reforms, Republican donors, business leaders, immigration advocates, and long-time U.S. citizen spouses of unauthorized immigrants have been urging the Biden Administration to take administrative action to allow these migrants to obtain work permits. They are asking the Biden Administration to expand utilization of a policy called parole in place, for which there is precedent that has allowed unauthorized immigrant spouses of U.S. military service men and women to qualify for work permits and legal status.

At a time when the U.S. Supreme Court is currently considering the legality of TX SB 4, a state law that would allow Texas Law enforcement officers to arrest and initiate deportation proceedings against migrants who they suspect of being in the U.S. illegally, this expansion of access to work permits would help keep mixed immigration status families together and increase long-time unauthorized immigrant workers’ economic and fiscal contributions by allowing them to obtain legal status and work for tax-paying employers.  

This administrative action should be coupled with an executive order to improve border security and crack down on future illegal immigration, which the Wall Street Journal reports that the Biden Administration is also considering ahead of the Presidential Elections. Ideally, lawmakers in Congress would do their job and work together to pass bipartisan immigration reform to provide sensible and permanent workforce and border security solutions. While Congress has failed, these potential administrative measures would provide immediate action.


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