• President Obama to Take Executive Action Allowing Millions of Undocumented Immigrants to Stay and Work in the U.S. Legally
  • March 4, 2015 | Author: April A. (Caminez) Bentley
  • Law Firm: Adams Reese LLP - New Orleans Office
  • Last night President Obama addressed the nation to layout a series of executive actions he is taking to fix the United States' immigration system that everybody recognizes is broken. While such action will not have the permanent force of law because the President does not have the power to create new laws - only Congress can do this - it will resolve several immigration issues for the short-term and bring relief for an estimated 5 million undocumented immigrants currently in the United States, who have no other options to legally reside and work here.

    1. Who Gets Relief under President Obama's Plan?
    • Deferred Action for Parents

    An estimated 4 million undocumented parents of children (of any age) who are American citizens or legal residents, who have continuously resided in the United States for at least 5 years (since January 1, 2010), and who pass the background check (no criminal record) and pay taxes, will be eligible to apply for deferred action, which will be granted for a 3-year period.
    • Expansion of DACA

    An estimated 270,000 undocumented immigrants who came to the United States illegally as children, so-called "Dreamers" will become eligible for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program enacted in 2012. The age limits for the program will be eliminated (e.g., under age 31 as of June 15, 2012) and the requirement of continuous residence in the U.S. will commence January 1, 2010 (rather than January 1, 2007).
    • Highly-Skilled Foreign National Workers

    An estimated 410,000 highly-skilled foreign national workers will benefit from President Obama's policies focusing on the legal immigration system. Foreign nationals with an approved employment-based immigrant petition who are caught in the quota backlogs will be able to pre-register for adjustment of status to obtain the benefits of a pending adjustment.

    2. Who Will Not Get Relief under President Obama's Plan?
    • Undocumented immigrants who recently arrived in the United States (e.g., less than 5 years ago) and new or future undocumented arrivals will not be accorded relief (unless e.g., a refugee).
    • Undocumented parents of DACA recipients will not be eligible for legal status.
    • Undocumented agricultural workers will not be addressed (however, it is estimated that 25% of this population will likely qualify for one of the deferred action plans mentioned above).

    3. What Is Not Included in the Relief?

    President Obama's plan will not create a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants and any legal status received would be temporary. And like DACA, the eligible undocumented immigrants will not be entitled to federal benefits such as Medicaid or coverage under the Affordable Health Care Act.

    4. When Will This Relief Be Available?

    President Obama will sign his executive order today at the Del Sol High School in Las Vegas, Nevada. The Deferred Action for Parents program will be implemented within 180 days and the expansion of the current DACA program will occur within 90 days. Further guidance as to the new programs and policy changes will be provided in the coming weeks by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.