Today, the President of the United States, Barack Obama, announced an executive action that provides safeguard against deportation to between 4.5 and 5 million undocumented immigrants.
The measure protects parents of citizens and permanent legal residents who have been in the United States at least 5 years, and expands the timeframe for Deferred Action (DACA) coverage for Dreamers from June 15, 2012 back to January 1, 2010.
During the speech, Obama emphasized that the United States is a nation of immigrants that “has given us a tremendous advantage over other nations,” and said that this spirit has “kept us youthful, dynamic, and entrepreneurial.” Nevertheless, he noted, “today, our immigration system is broken, and everybody knows it.”
He further stated that undocumented individuals who desperately want to embrace responsibilities “see little option but to remain in the shadows, or risk their families being torn apart,” a situation that had been maintained “for decades” and “we haven’t done much about it.”
“When I took office, I committed to fixing this broken immigration system,” he stated and also mentioned his administration’s accomplishments in the matter of border security.
Obama mentioned last year’s Senate approval of a bipartisan bill that showed “common sense” and criticized the obstacles laid down by the Republican opposition in the House of Representatives.
“I continue to believe that the best way to solve this problem is by working together to pass that kind of common sense law. But until that happens, there are actions I have the legal authority to take as President " the same kinds of actions taken by Democratic and Republican Presidents before me " that will help make our immigration system more fair and more just,” he stated.
Points in the Executive Action
The executive action announced by Obama protects a wide group of undocumented people from deportation but in no case does it have the rank of law. A future Republican administration could well revoke it and those benefited would lose the safeguard.
The plan announced by Obama at 8 pm (Eastern Time) explains that the following categories of undocumented immigrants qualify for receiving temporary relief from deportation and a work permit:
- Parents of United States citizens or of permanent lawful residents who are not prioritized for deportation and have been living in the United States uninterruptedly since before January 1, 2010.
- Undocumented immigrants who entered the United States prior to reaching the age of 16 and have remained uninterruptedly since before January 1, 2010, regardless of their age today. This essentially broadens the timeframe for coverage under the Deferred Action (DACA) from June 15, 2007 to the date indicated, and furthermore eliminates the age limit.
Immigrants who meet the requirements will have to undergo a biometric background check administered by the Department of Homeland Security, and comply with the laws of the United States, for instance, by paying taxes, plus a fee or fine that will be announced.
The executive action also includes a reduction in the waiting period for families that have been separated as they wait for their green cards. The executive order specifies that undocumented immigrants who are immediate family members of residents or children of United States citizens or permanent lawful residents may apply to obtain an extension if the quota for granting visas is sufficient.
Although the action benefits around 5 million undocumented individuals, at least 6 million will be left out, among them the parents of Dreamers who have no children that are citizens or permanent lawful residents.
During the time the government presents these polemical measures, Obama insists that there will be an intensification of deportation cases for people who have arrived recently in an undocumented manner and for those who do so from now on. This idea stems from the concern that an unintended consequence of the executive action might be to draw in more undocumented immigrants, especially from Central America.
The executive action specifies that the applications by parents of citizens and permanent residents seeking protection from deportation must not be filed until at least spring of 2015.
Concerning Dreamers protected by the expansion of DACA, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will make an announcement shortly.
The federal agency “will not begin accepting applications” until it announces the starting date for the application process.
Until the government announces the starting date for the application process, the White House has stated that if you believe you qualify for the executive action, then “you can prepare by gathering documents that establish:
- Your identity.
- Relationship to a United States citizen or lawful permanent resident and show that you have been in the United States uninterruptedly during the last five years since before January 1, 2014.
- For Dreamers, having lived during five uninterrupted years since before January 1, 2010, regardless of age.
Those Who Arrived Afterwards
With respect to undocumented individuals who have been prioritized for deportation, two categories have been established: those who have been involved in criminal activity and those who have recently crossed United States borders illegally.
Anybody who is not present in the United States at this moment will not be able to apply for benefits under the executive action, although some who may currently be in the process of deportation might qualify.
The executive action increases the chances of arrest for anyone who tries to cross the border illegally today, and of being sent back to his or her country of origin, Obama cautioned
Do Not Commit Fraud
The fourth key point in the executive action warns that if an undocumented person commits fraud during the process of applying for protection from deportation, then he or she will be subject to “criminal prosecution and possible removal from the United States.”
“USCIS will review each case very carefully” and “as with other immigration requests,” the measures state.
They also state that if information is knowingly misrepresented or does not reveal facts required by USCIS, then that “will subject applicants to criminal prosecution and possible removal from the United States.”
Beware of Immigration Scams
The fifth key point is a general warning to undocumented individuals that they should be careful of immigration fraud, something that has reached epidemic proportions in the United States, as stated by attorneys and organizations that defend the rights of immigrants.
“Many people offer help with immigration services. Unfortunately, not all are authorized to do so,” stated the White House.
The White House further stated, “While many of these unauthorized practitioners mean well, all too many of them are out to rip you off,” and recommended, “Make sure you remain informed and know when the application process starts. www.uscis.gov will be the authoritative source of information about eligibility and applications going forward.”
Attorneys consulted by NoticiasUnivison.com stated that “in most cases” the scams place undocumented individuals seeking immigration relief “on the brink of deportation” and “they lose all their rights to residence in the United States.”
Obama’s executive action is being announced six months after the president stated, on June 30th, that he would act only after the House Republican leadership confirmed to him that they would not debate the bipartisan immigration reform bill, S. 744, already passed by the Senate on June 27, 2013.
Obama announced the executive action at prime time, coinciding with the Latin Grammy Awards ceremony, which was being held in Las Vegas, Nevada this year.
This executive action constitutes the greatest benefit extended to undocumented immigrants since Republican President Ronald Reagan’s immigration reform, in 1986, which permitted the legalization of 3 million foreigners who had no papers for residing lawfully in the United States, most of them being of Mexican origin.
Despite the scope of the actions, Obama reiterated that the measures are temporary and that a permanent solution to the problem of the 11 million undocumented persons would depend on Congress passing comprehensive immigration reform.
In addition to protecting from deportation between 4.5 and 5 million undocumented individuals who have been in the country for some time and have no criminal record, among other requirements, the Obama’s executive action includes measures for increasing border security.
- Arresting and swiftly deporting people who try to enter the country in an undocumented way.
- Prioritizing the deportation of undocumented immigrants who have committed criminal acts.
- Denying protection from deportation to undocumented immigrants who have helped to bring into the country others with no papers, such as their own children.
- Denying protection to undocumented individuals who commit fraud during the process of applying for safeguard and accelerating their deportations.
Trip to Las Vegas
This Friday, one day after announcing the executive action, Obama will travel to Las Vegas, Nevada to present new details of the deferral of deportation for millions of undocumented immigrants.
The president will deliver a speech at Del Sol High School, where in late January of 2013 he outlined his principles for a comprehensive immigration reform.
On that occasion, Obama stated that during his first term (2009-2012), his administration had taken the necessary measures to ensure that the country have the most secure border since the year 2000 " back when the entry of undocumented individuals into the country reached its peak.
He also said that between 2009 and 2012 his policy had been the most aggressive, and resulted in the deportation of immigrants with criminal records. Almost 410, 000 just in 2012.
On June 2nd, Obama acknowledged the existence of a humanitarian crisis along the southwest border, given the detention, as of fiscal year 2013, of some 42,000 unaccompanied children who were trying to enter the country without any papers. Toward the end of August the figure exceeded 66,000.
The White House nevertheless makes it clear that the announced executive action is provisional and that a permanent and definitive solution to the problem of undocumented individuals is in the hands of Congress, which will in turn be in the hands of the Republicans starting in mid January. Since June 27, 2013 the Republican opposition has been holding up passage of an immigration reform law in the House of Representatives.
Obama’s executive action constitutes an open challenge to Republicans, who regained control of the Senate in the midterm elections of November 4th and broadened their power base in the House of Representatives.
Senate Republican minority leader Mitch McConnell, who will become majority leader in January, said it would be “a big mistake” for the president to act alone in matters of immigration because that would “poison the well” for legislative progress in this matter.
A day later, Speaker of the House of Representatives, John Boehner, during his first statements to the press following the electoral victory, said: “I’ve made clear to the president that if he acts unilaterally on his own outside of his authority, he will poison the well and there will be no chance of immigration reform moving in this Congress.”
A short time later, Boehner gave assurances that his party will fight “tooth and nail” against the measures Obama may adopt for the purpose of granting any kind of benefit to the undocumented.
Translation by William Klemme