The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has been forced to delay accepting expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) applications after a federal district judge temporarily blocked both it and the Deferred Action for Parents of U.S. Citizens and Legal Permanent Residents (DAPA) program. The expanded DACA program was to take effect on February 18, 2015. DAPA was slated to begin in May.
U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen, in Texas, ruled late Monday night to block executive actions Obama took late last year to shield as many as 5 million undocumented immigrants from deportation. Judge Hanen halted Obama's executive action, ruling that the administration had failed to comply with the Administrative Procedure Act, which calls for the White House to afford a longer notification and comment period before taking action. The ruling was issued in a lawsuit filed by 26 U.S. states seeking to bar the Obama Administration from certain executive actions on immigration.
The DHS immediately issued a statement confirming that they intended to appeal the decision, but would comply with it while an appeal is pending.
Secretary Johnson stated that
"...the Department of Homeland Security will not begin accepting requests for the expansion of DACA tomorrow, February 18, as originally planned. Until further notice, we will also suspend the plan to accept requests for DAPA.
The Department of Justice, legal scholars, immigration experts and even other courts have said that our actions are well within our legal authority. Our actions will also benefit the economy and promote law enforcement. We fully expect to ultimately prevail in the courts, and we will be prepared to implement DAPA and expanded DACA once we do."
The majority of the publicity surrounding President Obama's Executive Action last week is concerned with the relief it gives to undocumented immigrants. Contrary to some reports, the proposals do NOT offer any amnesty or path to citizenship, and are just temporary measures.
1. DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) Expansion.
In June 2012, President Obama announced that some undocumented people, who had come to the US as children, would not be deported. These people are sometimes referred to as "Dreamers" after a proposed bill called the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act.
Obama's Executive Action expands the relief available as follows:
The USCIS website explains the former requirements for DACA.
All except the first and third criteria still apply.
USCIS may begin accepting applications approximately 90 days from November 20, 2014
2. Relief for Parents of Permanent Residents and Citizens
The most controversial element of Obama's proposals allow for the undocumented parents of US citizens or permanent residents to get work authorization and relief from deportation for 3 years. Applicants will need to register, submit biometric data, pass background checks, pay fees, and show that their child was born before November 20, 2014.
The requirements are:
USCIS may begin accepting applications approximately 180 days (6 months) from November 20, 2014.
President Obama's speech last night on what is being called "Immigration Accountability Executive Action" (IAEA) primarily described the relief offered to parents of children who are US citizens pr permanent residents (green card holders), and mentioned a change in the focus of the enforcement arm (Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). However, there are far more details on the US Immigration Service website and in the White House Fact Sheet on the subject.
The blog post will cover the proposed changes that affect employment-based applicants and their employers, and prospective citizens. On Monday, I will cover the changes affecting undocumented immigrants and enforcement. Full details of the changes are not yet published, so I can only provide a summary for now.
Changes affecting non-immigrants.
1. Spouses of H-1B workers will get work authorization if the H-1B worker has "an approved LPR application" (this phrase is not defined yet).
2. Investors and entrepreneurs will be encouraged to immigrate by
4. Expand the period of Optional Practical Training (OPT) available to F-1 students in the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields, including requiring stronger ties between OPT students and their colleges and universities following graduation.
Changes to the permanent residence process.
1 The government is expected to change the way that Adjustment of Status applications are filed, to allow for employees to change jobs more easily, even if their priority date is not current.
2. Improve the ability of people who have filed for permanent residence to travel outside the US while the application is pending.
The government will promote the naturalization process through increased public awareness campaigns in the 10 states where 75% of permanent resident live. Payment of fees will be made easier by
As the USCIS website notes:
Important notice: These initiatives have not yet been implemented, and USCIS is not accepting any requests or applications at this time. Beware of anyone who offers to help you submit an application or a request for any of these actions before they are available. You could become a victim of an immigration scam.
Over the coming months, USCIS will produce detailed explanations, instructions, regulations and forms regarding the changes. Check back here (or subscribe to the feed) for frequent updates as new information emerges.
Elaine Martin has been practising US and global immigration law since 1997. She is an immigrant herself (from Ireland), so has a special understanding of the legal and emotional challenges involved in relocating to a new country.