Immigration Law Office

November 21, 2014


PRESIDENT OBAMA'S EXECUTIVE ACTION ON IMMIGRATION


By: Ellie Mosko


Following the lead of US Presidents over the past four decades, President Obama announced his plan for an executive action on immigration reform last night and this afternoon.  The President’s announcement comes in response to a broken immigration system and Congress’s inability and unwillingness to pass reform to fix the system.


The President’s executive action outlines several possible paths to help thousands of immigrants with many more details to be released over the coming weeks and months.


Though details are forthcoming, below are some of the components that have been released with regard to the President’s plan:


  • Extend the use of prosecutorial discretion by narrowly focusing deportation priorities on suspected terrorists, convicted felons, gang members, persons recently apprehended at the border, persons convicted of serious or multiple misdemeanors, recent border crossers, and immigrants who after January 1, 2014 failed to leave the U.S. after being ordered deported or who returned to the U.S. after being deported.


  •  Coordinate and better use resources at the border.


  • Work to keep families united by providing some parents of US Citizens and “Green Card” holders who have been continuously present in the US since January 1, 2010 temporary permission, known as deferred action, to live and work in the United States. 


  • Extend the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program to a larger population of certain immigrants brought to the United States before the age of 16 who have been continuously present in the United States since January 1, 2010. 


  • Create additional opportunities for spouses and children of “Green Card” holders to be able to wait in the United States while applying for waivers of unlawful presence through the I-601A Provisional Waiver process prior to consular processing.


  • Provide additional potential legal options for families of individuals trying to enlist in the armed forces.


  • Improve certain areas of businesses immigration, including allowing certain foreign workers experiencing lengthy visa backlogs the ability to apply for a “Green Card” and obtain the benefits of a pending “Green Card” application.


  • Encourage immigrants in STEM fields to remain in the United States.


  • Provide additional opportunities for foreign investors.


  • Work towards modernizing the visa system for greater efficiency and effectively.


  • Eliminate the Secure Communities Program and replace it with a new Priority Enforcement Program (PEP), details forthcoming.  


 During this exceptionally exciting time, it is important for the immigrant population to understand that they cannot yet apply for relief based on the President’s announcement. Although the outline has been released, we can only speculate on details, including eligibility requirements, procedures for applying, and when policies will take effect.  Such information should be unpacked and unveiled over the coming months. 


The immigrant community should be suspicious of anyone promising results or an ability to apply for relief before policies are written and before changes take effect.  At this time, the different remedies are not yet in place and NO ONE can or should apply for anything until the plans are unveiled and actually take effect.  Once the changes take effect, immigrants, especially the undocumented, must be cautious in order to ensure that they are, in fact, eligible to apply for relief, as ineligibility could potentially result in deportation. Immigrants who think they might be eligible may begin gathering some personal information such as: identification documents, passports, birth certificates, evidence of presence in the United States, past tax returns, evidence that they are of good moral character, and criminal records (if applicable).  They may also seek a consultation with a knowledgeable and experienced immigration attorney; however, it is important at this time to be cautious and understand that until the details are released, all an attorney can do is speculate based on the available information. 


Though the legal and advocacy community have received general information about what the executive action means, there are not sufficient details to fully determine who will be eligible, when they will be eligible, how the application processes will work, and the risks of applying for relief if ineligible.  Once that information becomes available, your attorney can even better advise you of your eligibility and details regarding the process. ​ ​


President Obama’s announcement generates excitement and hope for many immigrants who have been waiting decades for reform and change in the immigration laws.  Although the action is not reform and does not offer more permanent solutions, it does create options that were not previously in place.  At this time, it is important to remain patient as memoranda, policies, regulations, and procedures are unveiled and as we learn the specifics on who, how, and when the President’s actions will benefit the different immigrant populations.