On November 20, 2014, President Obama announced his plans for shifting policies and priorities in immigration law.
We were fortunate to be on a call with the White House 90 minutes before the President’s announcement. As we listened, we all had goosebumps and were thrilled with what we were hearing.
The changes are overall very good. While not everyone is protected, it is a solid start and I hope that Congress will look at comprehensive immigration reform in the upcoming year.
Many of the details of the President’s actions have not been announced, but we do have a framework of what to expect.
Please note that none of the changes are immediate. It will take time for the various agencies to develop procedures and forms. Estimates are between 90 and 180 days to apply for the two new deferred action programs, for example.
Now is the time to talk to an attorney, to collect documents, and to start saving money for your fees.
Over the next several weeks, I want to look at the various changes more in-depth. However, here are some of the highlights:
DEFERRED ACTION BENEFITING APPROXIMATELY 4.4 MILLION UNDOCUMENTED INDIVIDUALS
Two deferred action initiatives will be rolled out that are estimated to benefit 4.4 million undocumented individuals:
- Deferred Action for Parents (DAP): Parents of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents (of any age) who have been continuously present since January 1, 2010, and who pass background checks and pay back taxes; and
- DACA Expansion: The age cap on DACA will be removed and the date when continuous presence must have started will be changed from June 15, 2007, to January 1, 2010. Both of these initiatives will provide deferred action for three years.
The expanded DACA should be up and running in 90 days and deferred action for parents in 180 days. Note: no initiative specifically for parents of DACA recipients was included.
I-601A WAIVER EXPANSION
The I-601A provisional waiver will be expanded to include spouses and children of lawful permanent residents. Expansion and clarification of the definition of “extreme hardship” is also expected.
There will be a Presidential Memorandum directing the various immigration-related agencies to look at modernizing the visa system, with a view to making optimal use of the numbers of visas available under law.
Issues such as whether derivatives should be counted towards the visa quota and whether past unused visa numbers can be recaptured are expected to be included in this effort.
STATE AND LOCAL ENFORCEMENT OF IMMIGRATION LAWS
Secure Communities will be discontinued and replaced with a new initiative, the Priority Enforcement Program (PEP). Details are still forthcoming on what PEP will entail, but in certain circumstances, detainers may be replaced by requests for notification to ICE when a law enforcement entity is about to release an individual.
Parole-in-place will be expanded to include families of individuals trying to enlist in the armed forces, like some branches of the military ban applicants who have undocumented family members.