Undocumented workers in Arizona and around the country saw their hopes of obtaining work permits dashed on June 23 when the U.S. Supreme Court voted to put the Obama administration's immigration plan on hold. Unauthorized immigrants who are the parents of U.S. citizens would have been permitted to apply for work permits had it been implemented. Immigrant advocacy groups had pinned their hopes on action at the federal level, but there have also been calls for state legislatures to adopt a more progressive approach.
California is a primary destination for immigrants from South and Central America, and legislators have responded with laws designed to help undocumented workers rather than ostracize them. California allows unauthorized immigrants to apply for driver's licenses, and Senate Bill 1159 allows them to obtain professional licenses and pay their taxes using an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number.
While employers in California may be prohibited from hiring undocumented workers by U.S. immigration law, unauthorized immigrants in the state who obtain a permit under SB 1159 may start their own businesses in areas including architecture, cosmetology and nursing. The program has been in effect for less than two years, but about 3,000 undocumented workers have already applied for professional licenses.
Obtaining an employment-based visa or green card can be a difficult and frustrating process, and minor documentation errors or a missed deadline can lead to applications being delayed or denied. Experienced immigration attorneys may assess the situations of those who dream of living and working legally in the United States to determine if permanent residency, a visa application or an asylum claim would be most prudent. Attorneys could also provide assistance with the complex paperwork involved and advocate on behalf of undocumented workers during immigration hearings.