Jim Kendall: Immigration: Business' third rail

Maybe you should talk with an immigration attorney. If you have employees who are immigrants, even if those employees are fully documented, maybe you should erase the first maybe. Here's why:

On Monday, June 17, President Donald Trump tweeted that “Next week ICE will begin the process of removing the millions of illegal aliens who have illicitly found their way into the United States. They will be removed as fast as they come in.” (ICE is the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.)

Sunday, June 23 was the day the ICE-forced deportations were to begin. Then, as he is inclined to do, the President changed his mind, opting instead to give Congress two weeks to plug holes in the immigration process.

This column was written during Trump's two week pause, so the President could have changed his mind again. The basic dilemma isn't likely to change, however: How do you, the business owner-manager-boss, respond when an immigrant employee — who, we assume for discussion, has proper identification — asks what he, or she, should do?

Beyond saying, “Contact an immigration attorney,” that's a tough question to answer.

In fact, contacting an immigration attorney may be what you, or your top human resources officer, also should do — in part because employment rules can be complicated.

“Immigration laws have become increasingly complex,” says Kyle Knapp, a longtime immigration law specialist who deals with smaller businesses and, since December 2017, has been owner at Knapp Law Co. LLC in suburban Columbus, Ohio. “Immigration is the third rail no one wants to touch.”

Knapp is a solo practitioner highly recommended by a suburban Chicago attorney I know and trust. Check Knapp's Web page,

Knapp does have some generally good news — for business owners: If you have an authorized workforce, that is if your employees meet all the (documentation) requirements, your business' risk of a headline-generating dust-up is low.

ICE, Knapp says, generally “is looking for bigger fish” to fry.

While that should ease your stress level a bit, the core question remains: If you have employees who are immigrants, how do you respond when one comes to you and asks for What-should-I-do? advice as the federal government waffles back and forth on its approach to immigrants.

Talk to an immigration attorney may be the best advice you can give (and follow).

But if an employee comes to you and admits that maybe his, or her, employment paperwork isn't quite right, Knapp's suggested response is on the order of, “Are you telling me you have no authorization to work? Then I must tell you that your employment with this company ends today at five o'clock.

“And I suggest you see an immigration lawyer.”

Harsh? Yes. But I asked Knapp for a response that could provide some protection for the small business (and small business owner) that has immigrant employees and a perhaps unknown vulnerability.

Knapp added one thought: “We need immigration reform.”

© 2019 Kendall Communications Inc. Follow Jim Kendall on LinkedIn and Twitter. Write him at Learn about Jim's skills at

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