President Obama’s Executive Action on Immigration and Frequently Asked Questions
On November 20, 2014 President Obama announced his much-anticipated executive plan on immigration. According to reports, more than 4 million undocumented immigrants would benefit from the plan. However, even with such a high number of potential beneficiaries, millions of immigrants are still left out. This is because the President’s plan comes with cut-off dates and age ceilings. In addition, some categories of immigrants are not mentioned at all such as those who were not childhood arrivals and those who do not have a U.S. citizen or permanent resident child. Having said that, the President’s plan is huge and it is a step in the right direction.
Specifically, President Obama’s plan spans various aspects of immigration policy and enforcement including the expansion of eligibility for unlawful presence waivers, promotion of citizenship to encourage more LPRSs to become U.S. citizens, and the modernization and reform of the employment based visa system. However, the most talked about, and perhaps the most far-reaching aspects of the plan, are the expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and the Deferred Action for Parental Accountability (DAPA).
With respect to DACA, President Obama’s plan will expand the program by eliminating the age ceiling of 31, required in the initial DACA program. This means that qualified individuals who arrived the U.S. before their sixteenth birthday but who are now more than 31 years of age are eligible provided they meet all other requirements. In addition, persons who have been resident in the U.S. since January 1, 2010 are now eligible, thus eliminating the initial cut-off date of June 15, 2012. Finally, qualified individuals will now receive employment authorization for three years instead of the initial two years.
On the other hand, DAPA is an entirely new initiative designed to keep immigrant families together. Under DAPA, parents of U.S. citizens and permanent residents born on or before November 20, 2014 may qualify for work authorization and for deferment of deportation for three years provided they have maintained continuous presence in the U.S. since January 1, 2010, and are not an enforcement priority for removal from the U.S.
Following President Obama’s announcement, DACA and DAPA hopefuls have been asking questions about their eligibility for these programs. Here are a few such questions and likely answers.
Q: Does the plan apply to those who have been deported?
A. Unfortunately, no. The plan covers only those people living in the U.S. on or before November 20, 2014.
Q: Can someone who lived in the U.S. for several years but left in 2010 and then returned in 2014 and who has U.S. citizen children qualify for DAPA?
A. Probably not. Cut-off date for DAPA as indicated above is January 1, 2010. The fact that the person lived here before is not likely to count.
Q. Can an F-1 student who has a valid student visa and a child who is a U.S. citizen apply for DAPA?
A. Not likely. If this person’s student visa is still valid, then he/she is not an undocumented immigrant. DAPA and DACA apply to those who are here illegally.
Q: Can a beneficiary of DACA or DAPA travel outside the U.S.
A. The plan is silent on this question. You may likely need to apply for a parole before you can travel.
Q. What happens after the three years expires? Will I be deported?
A. Hopefully not, but we do not know. Hopefully, there will be an extension of both plans.
Finally, just a note that USCIS has not started accepting applications for DAPA or DACA. However, potential applicants may begin gathering evidence of their residence in the U.S. so they will be ready when the time comes.
If you have further questions about this initiative or if you have other immigration questions, contact Attorney Rachel Dan-Harry for a free 30-minute consultation.