Obama’s Executive Actions on Immigration: The essential information
On November 20, 2014, the President announced a series of executive actions expanding the population eligible for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) , allowing parents of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents who have been in the country since January 1, 2010, to request deferred action and employment authorization for three years, expanding the use of provisional waivers of unlawful presence to include the spouses and sons and daughters of lawful permanent residents and the sons and daughters of U.S. citizens, prioritizing deporting felons not families, requiring certain undocumented immigrants to pass a criminal background check and pay taxes in order to temporarily stay in the U.S. without fear of deportation and , cracking down on illegal immigration at the border.
I will explain the essential meaning and application:
- Expanding the population eligible for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program to young people who came to this country before turning 16 years old and have been present since January 1, 2010 and extending the period of DACA and work authorization from two years to three years.
This new rule means that, DACA now applies to all persons who came into the country before age 16 and who have been present continuously in the U.S since 01/01/2010. (The old effective date was June 15, 2007). This rule expands the existing DACA eligibility by doing two things: a) Eliminating the upper age requirement-this means that one can file even if they are older than 31, as long as they came in before the age of 16. All the other requirements for DACA remain largely unchanged, except that certain crimes like DUI which had a detrimental effect on a DACA application will now have a lesser effect if they are not in addition to other crimes.
- Allowing parents of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents who have been in the country since January 1, 2010, to request deferred action and employment authorization for three years, in a new Deferred Action for Parental Accountability program, provided they pass required background checks.
- Expanding the use of provisional waivers of unlawful presence to include the spouses and sons and daughters of lawful permanent residents and the sons and daughters of U.S. citizens. Beginning March 4, 2013, certain immigrant visa applicants who are spouses, children and parents of U.S. citizens (immediate relatives) can apply for provisional unlawful presence waivers before they leave the United States. Previously eligibility extended only to the spouse, child (unmarried and under 21), or parent of a U.S. citizen. Now children and spouses of Permanent Residents and Children of U.S citizens are included. This one change will be helpful for a new significantly large group of people that had been left out.
- Modernizing, improving and clarifying immigrant and nonimmigrant programs to grow the economy and create jobs. On this one, we shall await further clarification on exactly who is eligible. My take would be that it has to do with certain graduates of U.S Schools.
- Promoting citizenship education and public awareness for lawful permanent residents and providing an option for naturalization applicants to use credit cards to pay the application fee.
These actions mean that millions of people who previously had no hope of attaining lawful status now have the opportunity to do so. One thing that must be made clear is that the details of exactly how the process will work will be communicated in the coming weeks or months.
Just like every other executive order, we expect several other memos to follow clarifying the meaning of this executive action and the implementation procedures. Care must be taken to ensure that; one is eligible considering arrests or convictions for certain crimes. These should only be evaluated by a competent immigration lawyer.
The Department of Homeland Security has put out a complex system of evaluating the immigration consequences of certain criminal conduct. If you have ever been arrested or charged with anything, you need to be careful. The president is committed to deporting certain people with criminal convictions and you need to make sure yours does not fall in that category.
Please note that the operation of these executive actions is based on the understanding of incredibly complex set of laws and regulations that are not easily comprehensible by everyone, even lawyers who are not experienced in, or do not regularly practice immigration law. Not every Lawyer who shows up can responsibly represent clients or claim to be an ‘expert’ in immigration matters. Immigration is a highly specialized field and care must be taken not to engage a lawyer who might misunderstand these immigration policies and put a client in more danger than the client was in before.
Japheth N. Matemu Esq (LL.M)
275 Madison Avenue, 14th Floor
New York, NY 10016