By Reeves Miller Zhang & Diza, A PLC
On November 20, 2014, President Obama announced his plan to provide temporary relief to millions of undocumented immigrants living in the United States. President Obama explained that his plan will be enacted through executive order exercised using his authority as Chief Executive of the agencies that oversee the enforcement of U.S. immigration laws. While the exact details regarding eligibility and application procedures are still forthcoming, we do know that relief from deportation is effective immediately. We anticipate that USCIS will start accepting applications in a few months.
The relief includes the following:
- Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA): DACA is being expanded in three important ways. First, the age cap has been removed. A person is no longer required to have been under the age of 31 on June 15, 2012. They may now apply regardless of their current age so long as they have the necessary continuous residence, meet the education requirements, etc. Second, the start date for continuous residence is now January 1, 2010. A person no longer has to establish that they have been physically present in the U.S. from June 15, 2007. Rather, they must only demonstrate they have been residing in the U.S. from January 1, 2010 to the present. Finally, a grant of DACA will now be effective for three years instead of two.
- Deferred Action for Parents: Parents of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents (green card) are eligible to apply for deferred action. To be eligible, an applicant must have arrived in the United States at least five years ago, have a child who is a U.S. citizen or a permanent resident, register with the Department of Homeland Security, pass a criminal background check, and pay taxes. If eligible, an applicant would be able to remain in the United States without fear of removal, and would receive authorization to work.
- Immigration Court: Individuals presently in Immigration Court who are facing imminent deportation may be eligible to have their cases immediately closed. This closure will allow them to remain in the U.S. with the rest of their family. In addition to being permitted to remain in the U.S. with their family, they may also be eligible to apply for work authorization.
- Travel Authorization: The individuals who benefit from deferred action may now be eligible to apply for travel authorization. This travel authorization will allow them the opportunity to return to their native country to visit sick or dying relatives, study abroad, etc. This ability to apply for travel authorization is already in effect for DACA recipients, and may now be potentially granted to parents of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents.
- Highly Skilled College Graduates: Many foreign-born individuals come to the U.S. to study. After earning their degrees, these highly skilled college graduates are sometimes forced to return to their native countries. However, they will now be permitted to remain in the U.S. for an extended period of time. They will therefore be permitted more time to seek permanent employment opportunities in the U.S.
President Obama said that this plan is meant to refocus our priorities on hopes and not fears. He was clear that this program does not provide permanent residency or citizenship. However, this plan will provide relief to parents who are struggling to support their families, it will provide relief to many who want nothing more than the opportunity to remain in the U.S. with their family, and it will help immigrants who want nothing more than a chance to “get right with the law.” As President Obama said, the United States is a nation of immigrants.
Additional details and specific information regarding eligibility, procedures, and timelines are expected soon. As always, it is advisable to retain the services of an experienced and knowledgeable attorney who is dedicated solely to the practice of immigration law.