After months of grassroots actions and demands that the President take executive action on immigration due to his dismal deportation record, President Barack Obama asked Secretary Jeh Johnson and Attorney General Eric Holder to undertake a rigorous and inclusive review to inform recommendations on reforming our broken immigration system through executive action. On November 20, 2014, the President officially announced some reforms that he would be making to the current immigration system in a primetime speech from the White House. Listed below are some of the changes that the United States government will be rolling out for immigrants and potential immigrants to the U.S.:
- Expansion of DACA – The DHS will remove the upper level age cap on DACA so people who were above the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012 will not miss out. The date of entry was also moved to January 1, 2010 from June 15, 2007, which means thousands more people who are newer arrivals would benefit. DACA will also be made into a temporary reprieve of 3 years, and the changes rolled out in 3 months.
- The New DAPA program – The DHS is tasked with creating a separate deferred action program for parents of U.S. citizen sons/daughters or LPR sons/daughters born on/before November 20, 2014 who have resided in the U.S. for at least 5 years, passed background checks, and are otherwise not ineligible (i.e., not an enforcement priority according to the new Johnson memo). Potentially, this includes people who have final orders or subject to reinstatement due to prior deportations and subsequent re-entry.
- The provisional stateside waiver (I-601A) will be extended to all family members eligible, which will now include adult sons and daughters, and spouses of LPRs. The provisional waiver is for the 3/10 year bar for unlawful entry, and requires an individual to prove “extreme hardship” to their U.S. citizen family member if they are deported. Usually, individuals who are trying to adjust their status in the U.S. but entered the country unlawfully, need to travel abroad to their home country for approval of a waiver. In 2012, the Administration started accepting “extreme hardship” waivers without requiring immediate relatives of U.S. citizens to leave and wait outside. Now this benefit is also available to the children and spouses of lawful permanent residents. This provision will require rule-making, so it will take some time to roll this out. The DHS will also engage in rule-making to expand the “extreme hardship” definition.
- Naturalization – Lawful permanent residents who are naturalizing can now pay via credit card and may qualify for partial fee waivers soon.
- Expansion of parole-in-place to immediate relatives of those U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents who “seek to enlist” in the US Armed Forces (Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, National Guard, or the Reserve of any of the five Armed Services). This benefit means that not only would the family members of those who seek to enlist not be subject deported–they may also be eligible to adjust their status in the future.
- Department of Labor (DOL) reforms: DOL will start issuing U visa certifications in three key areas: extortion, forced labor, and fraud in foreign labor contracting. The DOL will also start certifying applications for trafficking victims seeking T visas. According to DOL, “These efforts will significantly help qualifying victims of these crimes receive immigration relief from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and access the range of victim services that they need to recover and rebuild their lives.”
- Reforms to the employment-based immigration system such as extension of OPT for STEM graduates, defining “specialized knowledge” for L-1B intracompany transferees, increasing H-1B portability by having USCIS define “same or similar” jobs, expanding the use of the “national interest waiver” and starting a new parole program to bring talented entrepreneurs to the U.S.
- Clarification of travel on advance parole by DHS so that people on DAP, DACA can travel abroad, and return to adjust their status in the U.S.
- Visa backlogs – The announcement punts on the question of family visa backlogs that affect so many clients. However, there will be Presidential Memorandum to create an interagency group to look at “visa modernization” which has 120 days to prepare recommendations for further action.
- Immigration Court (EOIR) reforms: Immigration courts are backlogged with over 400,000 persons in removal proceedings. Those people who qualify for the extended DACA or DAPA program listed above will be screened and their cases administratively closed. The remaining people would see their cases accelerated–which could be both good and bad news.
This announcement is estimated to benefit up to 5 million people. It is important to note that no application forms are available as of yet. Do not pay anyone. Do not file anything. Seek out a trusted and reputable immigration attorney, or legal clinic, for eligibility screenings. We will have more information available soon on where individuals can go to find more information, and continue to update our resources below.
Resources on Administrative Action
White House Fact Sheet: Immigration Accountability Executive Action
Updated Immigration Consequences of Convictions Checklist with DACA and DAPA Supplement [Immigrant Defense Project]