Last Thursday, President Obama announced plans to use his executive authority to provide temporary relief for several groups of non-citizens living in the United States. There is no change in the U.S. immigration law. Without Congress, the President has no authority to pass laws. Most of the provisions will not go into effect for several months, but here is an outline of the highlights of President Obama’s plan:
- He will expand the population eligible for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) by removing the upper age limit on people eligible for this relief. Therefore, those who were previously unable to apply for DACA because they were 31 or older on June 15, 2012, when the program was originally started, will now be able to apply provided that they came to the United States before age 16 and meet all of the other DACA requirements. Finally, the grant of deferred action will be extended from two years to three for both new applicants and applicants for renewal of DACA.
- He will create a new form of relief known as DAPA (Deferred Action for Parental Accountability). This deferred action will be available to parents of U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents so long as the U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident child was born on or before November 20, 2014, the parent has been continuously residing in the United States since January 1, 2010, and the parent is not an enforcement priority. Enforcement priorities have been revised and clarified under a new policy memo issued November 20, 2014.
- He will expand the provisional waiver program to include the adult children of U.S. citizens and the spouses and children of lawful permanent residents and will clarify the definition of “extreme hardship” for purposes of qualifying for the waiver.
- He will authorize parole to certain inventors, researchers, and founders of start-up companies who have either been awarded substantial U.S. financing or who show promise of providing innovation and job creation in the U.S. economy through the creation of new technologies or the pursuit of cutting-edge research.
- He will create other new policies and regulations to support U.S. high-skilled businesses and workers, which include (1) modernization of the employment-based visa system, (2) reform of the “Optional Practical Training” program for foreign students to expand the degree programs eligible for STEM OPT, (3) clarification of the standard to grant a “national interest waiver” to certain non-citizens with advanced degrees or exceptional ability, (4) guidance on the meaning of “specialized knowledge” within the L-1B visa program for intracompany transferees, and (5) an increase in worker portability.
- He will authorize parole-in-place and deferred action to certain parents, spouses, and children of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents when the U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident in question is seeking to enter the U.S. military.
- He will make it easier for lawful permanent residents to apply for U.S. citizenship by allowing them to pay the filing fee by credit card and will direct the USCIS to conduct a fee study to explore a partial fee waiver program for naturalization applicants who cannot afford the filing fee.
- He will direct the DHS’ General Counsel to issue written legal guidance on the meaning of Matter of Arrabelly to allow individuals with advance parole to leave the United States without fear of triggering the “3- and 10-year bars” for unlawful presence.
- He will revise the policies for apprehension, detention, and removal of undocumented immigrants. Priorities for civil immigration enforcement will be (1) threats to national security, border security, or public safety, (2) individuals convicted of multiple or significant misdemeanors and recent immigration violators, and (3) individuals with final orders of removal. He will also direct DHS to exercise prosecutorial discretion in a variety of enforcement decisions, including: whom to stop, question and arrest; whom to detain or release; whether to settle, dismiss, appeal, or join in a motion on a case; whether to grant deferred action, parole, or a stay of removal instead of pursuing removal in a case; and whether to issue, serve, file, or cancel a Notice to Appear.
As mentioned above, it will be several months before any of the plans announced by the President will be put into place and details may change. It is extremely important that, if you think one of the President’s initiatives applies to you, you seek advice from a qualified immigration lawyer to learn when and if you may apply for benefits. Do not believe “notarios” or unauthorized consultants who engage in illegal immigration scams and guarantee results. Relying on poor advice from those involved in the unauthorized practice of law could lead to deportation, denied applications, and missed opportunities to apply for more permanent relief.
Scott D. Pollock & Associates, P.C. is a nationally recognized, full-service U.S. immigration law firm. For almost 30 years, Scott D. Pollock & Associates has been committed to bringing justice and fairness to immigrants through the highest degree of professional and personal legal services. Learn more about Scott D. Pollock & Associates at www.lawfirm1.com or call us at 312-444-1940 for more information.
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