In a highly controversial move, President Barack Obama signed two executive orders recently that will delay the deportation of millions of undocumented immigrants who are currently living in the United States. This measure could have major implications for many people living without documentation in Texas, Arizona and throughout the nation.
Speaking from the White House on November 20, 2014, the President announced his plan to take executive action to overhaul the U.S. immigration system, due to non-support from the US House and the US Senate, saying “Our immigration system has been broken for a very long time and everybody knows it. We can’t afford it anymore.” The announcement followed after months of gridlock in Congress over terms proposed in draft bills on immigration reform.
The focal point of the President’s announcement was an expanded program that will help undocumented parents of U.S. citizens to delay deportation and remain in the country indefinitely. Based on this expansion from his previous executive order, an estimated 4 million people will be eligible for deportation protection under this new program, which will create temporary legal status for those who pass background checks and meet certain eligibility requirements. Also eligible for deferrals are parents of lawful permanent residents, or green card holders.
Qualifying parents who participate in the program will be eligible to receive employment authorization and Social Security cards, which will allow them to apply for driver’s licenses. However, they will be required to pay income taxes. Another one million undocumented immigrants are expected to be eligible for deportation protection through other aspects of this new executive order reform.
The executive order also provided for the expansion of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, otherwise known as DACA, which is an existing deportation protection program that began in 2012. DACA provides temporary, renewable deportation deferrals to certain undocumented immigrants who were brought into the country as children.
The President ordered that the previous age cap for DACA be removed from the program, thus expanding eligibility to include undocumented immigrants who came into the country before the age of 16, to anyone regardless of their current age. Previously, DACA deferrals had been available only to those born on or after June 15, 1981. Despite removal of the age cap, however, a number of other eligibility requirements still remain in place, including the condition that participants must have entered the United States no later than January 1, 2010.
The change also extends the length of the deportation deferral and work authorization period from two years to three. Program participants can re-apply to the program when their existing deferrals and authorizations expire, allowing them to live and work in the United States indefinitely.
People with questions about the new immigration laws and how their rights will be affected are encouraged to speak with an experienced immigration attorney.