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Executive Actions on Immigration Part 1: The Context and the Benefits

WhiteHouseSouthFacade.JPGPresident Obama announced a wide range of executive actions (EAs) on immigration in late November, including an expansion of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, deferrals for family members of citizens and lawful permanent residents (LPRs), and potential eligibility for certain public benefits. The EAs do not substantively alter federal immigration law by, for example, creating new immigrant categories or giving undocumented immigrants a new means of obtaining lawful status, but they do grant millions of people a reprieve from the threat of deportation and the opportunity to work.

The President announced the EAs on November 20, 2014, after a long period of inaction by Congress. The U.S. Senate passed the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013, in a bipartisan vote on June 27, 2013. The bill would create new opportunities for lawful immigration status while enhancing immigration and border enforcement. It would crack down on abuses in the H-1B visa system and provide additional visas for students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields at U.S. colleges and universities. The bill never has even been introduced in the House of Representatives.

The EAs will expand eligibility for DACA, the program that allows undocumented immigrants who entered the U.S. as children and meet other criteria, about 90 days after the announcement date. The upper age limit, currently set at people born on or after June 15, 1981, will be removed, and the continuous presence requirement will be moved up from June 15, 2007 to January 1, 2010. The program still will not be available to anyone who entered the U.S. after that date.

Parents of U.S. citizens and LPRs who do not have legal immigration status will be able to apply for deferred action about six months after the EA announcement date. They must have been present in the U.S. continuously since January 1, 2010, and they must be the parents of one or more U.S. citizens or LPRs born on or before November 20, 2014. They cannot belong to one of the enforcement priority categories identified by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), such as threats to national security or public safety, people with multiple criminal convictions, or people with multiple immigration violations. Parents of DACA recipients are not eligible for deferred action under this provision.

Spouses, minor children, and adult sons and daughters of citizens and LPRs may be eligible for provisional unlawful presence waivers (PUPWs). Currently, PUPWs are only available to spouses, children, or parents of citizens during the time they are waiting for approval of an family visa petition, for a period of up to 180 days. The EAs expand the program to include relatives of LPRs and remove the 180-day time limit.

The EAs also help businesses and foreign workers by directing U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to work with the Department of State to clarify numerous procedures related to employment-related immigrant visas, H-1B temporary workers visas, and L-1B visas. They also direct USCIS to authorize parole into the U.S. for certain individuals, such as inventors, entrepreneurs, and researchers, who might not otherwise qualify for a national interest waiver.

Immigration lawyer Samuel C. Berger represents people who wish to immigrate to the New York and Northern New Jersey area, family members who want to bring a loved one here, and employers who want to hire permanent or temporary employees from overseas. To schedule a confidential consultation with an experienced and skilled immigration advocate, contact us today online or at (212) 380-8117.

More Blog Posts:

Federal Government Allows Extension of DACA Status, Amid Efforts to Roll Back the Program, New York & New Jersey Immigration Lawyer Blog, August 6, 2014
Bipartisan Proposal for Comprehensive Immigration Reform Includes New Employment-Based Green Card Opportunities, New York & New Jersey Immigration Lawyer Blog, February 7, 2013
New White House Immigration Policy Offers Opportunities and Risks for Young Undocumented Immigrants, New York & New Jersey Immigration Lawyer Blog, June 21, 2012
Photo credit: Matt H. Wade (User:UpstateNYer) (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons.