Immigration Reform Updates

On Thursday, Nov. 20, 2014, President Obama addressed the nation from the East Room of the White House. The subject – immigration reform. In a bold and controversial move, the President announced executive actions that represent an important policy change on deportation and provided temporary relief to undocumented, law-abiding immigrants who meet certain requirements.

News“You can come out of the shadows,” President Obama said to millions of immigrants currently without papers but who are committed to ‘playing by the rules’ if given the chance. These immigrants include parents of U.S. Citizens, those who have been in the U.S. for five or more years, those willing to pay taxes and – should future measures permit – those willing to pursue a legitimate path to citizenship.

The immigration reforms will afford eligible immigrants a chance for deferred deportation, providing much needed relief for up to 5 million including for many the ability work legally. Under a ‘felons, not families’ policy, new measures will shift the emphasis of deportation efforts away from routine round-ups of undocumented immigrants and instead focus on identifying criminals and security threats. An additional 20,000 border patrol agents would be introduced, along with a crackdown on companies employing undocumented workers.

summary by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services details the initiatives enacted under the announced executive actions, which include:

  • Broadening the eligibility criteria for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program to include those under 16 who have been in the U.S. since Jan. 1, 2010, as well as extending relief and employment authorization under the program to three years
  • The introduction of a Deferred Action for Parental Accountability program, which would allow parents of U.S. citizens and other lawful permanent residents present in the U.S. since Jan. 1, 2010 the same period of deferment and employment authorization
  • Making spouses and children of lawful permanent residents and children of U.S. citizens eligible for provisional waivers.
  • Simplifying the legal immigration process to continue to aid in job creation and economic recovery
  • Promoting and improving both citizen education and public awareness for lawful permanent residents

President Obama’s address began with a famous line of scripture: “We shall not oppress a stranger for we know the heart of a stranger – we were strangers once, too.” At its core, the executive actions aim to promote a process by which those already in this country who follow the law and contribute to society are legally recognized. The executive actions do not grant permanent legal status or citizenship to anyone.

Those who qualify for deferred deportation and are permitted to work will receive Social Security cards, provided they meet certain conditions: that they pay a fine for illegally entering the country, pay taxes, learn English and are willing to ‘go to the back of the line’. Underlying the reforms is a move to promote accountability on the part of immigrants, as well as providing the means by which this accountability may be honored and enforced.

For millions in limbo as Congress and the White House battled over immigration reform for the past 6 years, the new measures are nothing less than a “massive breakthrough for the immigration rights movement” according to Deepak Bhargava, director of the Center for Community, in an article in The New York Times. Aimed at directly supporting ‘hard working parents’ and those with families, the initiatives honor the American culture of inclusion and a society built on the energy, hard work and innovation of foreign entrepreneurs and immigrants.

For more information about immigration issues, please feel free to read through the information found in our Immigration Practice pages. If you, a loved one or someone you know might be eligible for deferred action or has a question regarding the latest executive actions on immigration, please contact the Atlanta immigration specialists at Brownstein & Nguyen.