Despite efforts by the current administration to eliminate the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, the status is still valid through March 5, 2018, and may be extended via an act of Congress. Upon being granted status, holders could also apply for work permits, which in theory then grants the right to legal employment in the United States. Many states also chose to extend (and still are extending) additional benefits such as in-state tuition rates and the ability to earn professional licenses. However, South Carolina has chosen a harder line on DACA policy; a decision that appears to be causing economic harm to the state. If you are a DACA status holder, knowing South Carolina’s unique stance can help you avoid problems down the line.
Small Businesses Are Losing Workers
South Carolina is an at-will state, meaning that an employer can terminate an employee at any time as long as it is not for unlawful reasons. However, an employee whose work authorization expires must stop working, even if the employer wishes to retain them. For many small businesses, especially in seasonal sectors like tourism and agriculture, this can cause real problems. For decades, South Carolina farmers have made a habit of using immigrant labor, simply because very often, U.S. citizens have not even applied for the available jobs on farms and fishing boats.
DACA status holders very commonly take readily available jobs in agriculture or tourism because of the requirement that they be employed when granted status. Consequently, freezing these job seekers out is causing problems in some areas of the state – for example, Greenville is already reporting trouble filling certain positions, with unemployment hovering around 4 percent.
Immigrants Seeking Greener Pastures
There are other reasons why immigrants, both documented and undocumented, are seeking situations better suited to their unique needs. South Carolina is one of only two states as of this writing which does not provide in-state tuition rates to DACA status holders, and one of only a handful to deny DACA recipients the right to pursue licenses like those needed for cosmetology, nursing, or other occupations. The state defends its policy, but at the same time, acknowledges the high demand in fields such as these. Nursing, in particular, is a field with a significant personnel shortage, especially among bilingual English and Spanish speakers.
Federal employment law and DACA policy are both silent on these specific provisions, but state and federal law bar discrimination in employment on the basis of national origin. Even further, federal law prohibits employers and school officials from inquiring about a student’s immigration status. While the law obviously prohibits DACA status holders from receiving certain benefits because they are not citizens, it equally protects their rights to avoid discrimination based upon national origin. Employers need to be careful when letting DACA recipients go and ensure that they are doing so in compliance with the law rather than for any malicious or unlawful reason.
Call A Charleston Employment Lawyer
If you are a DACA status holder, life may be confusing and frightening right now. If you have questions about your employment status or DACA policy, contacting an employment discrimination attorney may be helpful. Just because you are not a U.S. citizen does not mean you do not have rights. Attorney A. Christopher Potts and his employment law firm have experience in discrimination cases and will do their best to obtain a fair outcome for you and your loved ones.
Call the office today to set up an appointment.