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Last night, we all watched as President Obama told the nation about the unilateral Immigration actions he is taking.
Here is an outline of some of the most important highlights:
- There will be expansion of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) to remove the age cap (currently not more than 30 years old) and move the continuous presence date up from June 15, 2007 to January 1, 2010. DACA will now be granted for 3 years (including those with pending renewal applications).
- Parents of DACA children (the “Dreamers”) will be eligible themselves for DACA if they meet eligibility requirements.
- There will be Deferred Action in Removal (deportation) Proceedings for the parents of U.S. citizen and lawful permanent resident children who fit the eligibility requirements.
- Replacement of the Secure Communities program which focuses on apprehending immigrants with a “Priority Enforcement Program” program which will re-focusing on criminal aliens and deprioritize detention of overstays and non-criminal violations. .
- Ensuring that job-creating entrepreneurs have legal means to enter and operate in the U.S. and possibilities for those already here in the U.S.
- Expansion of the I-601A waiver program to include spouses and children of lawful permanent residents to apply for unlawful presence waivers from within the U.S. and ensuring appropriate standards for adjudicating those waivers. Currently this waiver is limited to spouses and parents of adult US citizens.
- Enabling families of individuals trying to enlist in the armed forces to utilize “parole in place” to ensure legal status.
- Changing the procedures for adjustment of status to allow legal immigrants caught in the employment based immigration quota backlogs of many years to register their applications and thus begin the final step of the process.
- There will be a new, updated visa system.
- There will be a new re-focused border security program.
Further, a memo issued earlier yesterday by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (USCIS) on Prosecutorial Discretion restructures how we will treat undocumented people in this country. It provides for release of non-criminals in custody, and the ability for other’s to get work permits.
One important thing to remember is that yesterday’s actions confer no substantive right, immigration right or “pathway to citizenship”. Only an act of Congress can confer those rights. This is a way for people to get work permits, social security numbers, driver’s licenses and possibly travel overseas and still be able to return, but is temporary and can be undone in the future by another administration.
If you believe the foregoing applies to you or your family, or have other questions, it’s important to see an experienced immigration attorney. While these new opportunities are a great step forward for many, it is possible that people with criminal histories or other issues in their background may be placed in Removal proceedings, should they unwittingly come forward seeking these benefits. Using the services of a paralegal, “notario” or non-lawyer “immigration services” office can put you in a much worse position than ever before..