Tag Archives: immigration reform

DREAMers Face Uncertainty as Trump Administration Ends DACA and Leaves the Fight Up to a Divided Congress

On his campaign trail,  President Trump said he would “immediately terminate” DACA – the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program introduced by the Obama Administration in June 2012.  Although it took several months to make a decision, the Trump Administration issued a memorandum on September 5, 2017, to end the program.

As of this date, no new, initial DACA applications will be accepted. Current DACA holders whose benefits expire on or before March 5, 2018, may file for a renewal, valid for 2 years, by October 5, 2017.

Almost 800,000 eligible, undocumented immigrants have received DACA as a temporary relief from removal, which includes work authorization valid for two years. Commonly known as “DREAMERs,” DACA holders include undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as minors before age 16, have lived in the U.S. since June 15, 2007, are currently in school or have graduated from high school, have no serious criminal history, and meet other eligibility requirements.

DACA, however, has always been a temporary relief subject to rescission by a new Administration and which provided no path to lawful nonimmigrant status, permanent residence, or citizenship.

The DACA program was introduced by the Obama Administration in a  June 15, 2012 memorandum from then DHS-Secretary Janet Napolitano, titled Exercising Prosecutorial Discretion With Respect to Individuals Who Came to the United States as Children. Critics viewed it as an unconstitutional use of power by the Executive Branch. Supporters saw it as an extension of prosecutorial discretion related to immigration enforcement priorities and necessary protection for undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children and grew up in the country.

Federal court litigation ensued, in which a Texas-led coalition of 26 states  — including Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, West Virginia and Wisconsin — filed a lawsuit to stop the expansion of DACA and the introduction of a similar relief, Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) program.

In January 2017, after taking office, President Trump stated in an interview with ABC’s David Muir that a new policy would be issued within weeks, but that DACA recipients “shouldn’t be very worried.” He further commented: “I do have a big heart. We’re going to take care of everybody…But I will tell you, we’re looking at this, the whole immigration situation, we’re looking at it with great heart.”

Meanwhile, Attorney General Jeff Sessions continued to hold a hardline, calling DACA an “unconstitutional” act by Obama that has “denied jobs to hundreds of thousands of Americans by allowing those same illegal aliens to take those jobs.” Sessions made the announcement in a September 5th news conference that the Trump Administration will phase out the DACA program.

On Twitter, following Sessions’ remarks, President Trump wrote, “Congress now has 6 months to legalize DACA (something the Obama administration was unable to do.) If they can’t, I will revisit this issue!”

In a written statement issued after Sessions’ announcement, Trump said, “I am not going to just cut DACA off, but rather provide a window of opportunity for Congress to finally act.”

“We will resolve the DACA issue with heart and compassion — but through the lawful democratic process — while at the same time ensuring that any immigration reform we adopt provides enduring benefits for the American citizens we were elected to serve,” Trump added.

There are at least four bills being discussed in Congress that provides protection to DREAMErs. They include the Dream Act, sponsored by Sens. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C; Recognizing America’s Children (RAC) Act, sponsored by Rep. Carlos Curbelo, R-Fla.; American Hope Act, sponsored by Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill.; and BRIDGE Act, sponsored by Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Colo. The first three creates a path for citizenship or permanent resident status if applicants meet certain requirements. The fourth seeks to codify the current DACA program into law and extend it for three years (but offers no path to permanent residence or citizenship), giving Congress more time to enact comprehensive immigration reform.

Trump gave Congress six months to fix the broken immigration system, but there are diametrically opposed viewpoints within the Senate and House: some call for tougher border security and immigration enforcement, while others seek protection from removal and a pathway to permanent residence and citizenship for certain undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as minors.

Congress has struggled for several years to resolve big legislative issues like immigration. As such, six months make a very short period to tackle the monumental problem of DACA holders losing protection from removal and authorization to work in the United States.

With a divided Congress, the fate of DREAMers is uncertain. In addition to filing for DACA renewal, if eligible, and tracking legislative action in Congress, DACA holders should consult an immigration attorney to discuss other more concrete, existing immigration options.

This article provides general information only. It is based on law, regulations and policy that are subject to change. Do not consider it as legal advice for any individual case or situation. Each legal case is different and case examples do not constitute a prediction or guarantee of success or failure in any other case. The sharing or receipt of this information does not create an attorney-client relationship.


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Photo by: Lian Xiaoxiao

5 ways Obama’s executive actions benefit immigrants

President Obama announced, on November 20, executive actions aiming to grant temporary stay to millions of undocumented immigrants, prioritize the deportation of felons, streamline the employment-based immigrant visa system, expand the provisional waiver program, and promote naturalization.

In response, congressional Republicans have threatened to shut down the government, impeach Obama, sue the president, and not pass any immigration reform through Congress. Meanwhile, some immigrant rights groups say Obama’s executive actions don’t go far enough.

The most contentious executive action is the grant of temporary relief from deportation to certain undocumented immigrants.

Amid the political hoopla, many who are in the U.S. unlawfully or without immigrant status — and would like to stay long-term — are wondering, how do the executive actions affect me? 

Here are 5 ways Obama’s executive actions are expected to benefit immigrants: 

1) Grant deferred action to more undocumented immigrant children by expanding DACA 

Deferred action grants a temporary stay in the U.S. without the threat of deportation. But it does not create a path to lawful permanent residence or citizenship in the U.S.

Obama is expanding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program (which was first introduced on June 15, 2012) to cover a broader class of children.

First,  DACA will cover all undocumented immigrants who entered the U.S. before the age of 16, and not just those born after June 15, 1981, provided they meet the other guidelines.  DACA will no longer be limited to those under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012.

Second, DACA will cover those who have continuous presence in the U.S. since before January 1, 2010, instead of the earlier date of June 15, 2007.

Third, DACA grants and renewals, including the work permits that come with DACA, will be valid for three years instead of two years.

The expanded DACA program is expected to begin 90 days from the November 20 announcement (i.e. February 18, 2015).  Those who have been convicted of a felony or major misdemeanor crime (including burglary, DUI, domestic violence, or drug distribution) still do not qualify.

2) Grant deferred action to undocumented immigrant parents of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents

Obama is creating a new deferral program – Deferred Action for Parent Accountability (DAPA) – for undocumented immigrant parents who have a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident son or daughter on the date of the November 20 announcement.

To qualify, the parents must also (i) not be enforcement priorities for removal from the U.S., (ii) have continuous presence in the U.S. since before January 1, 2010, and (iii) present no other factors that would make a grant of deferred action inappropriate.

USCIS will consider DAPA requests on a case-by-case basis, and applicants may apply for work authorization provided they pay the filing fee. DAPA grants and renewals, including the work permits that come with DAPA, will be valid for three years.

The new DAPA program is expected to begin 180 days from the November 20 announcement (i.e. May 19, 2015).

Each applicant must pass a background check of all relevant national security and criminal databases, including DHS and FBI databases, that would show they have not been convicted of a felony or certain misdemeanors.

3)  Streamline the immigrant and nonimmigrant visa application process to support high-skilled businesses and workers

In a November 20 memorandum titled Policies Supporting U.S. High-Skilled Businesses and Workers, the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security called for new regulations and administrative steps to:

(i) Modernize the employment-based immigrant visa system (and make it easier for U.S. businesses to hire and retain highly-skilled foreign-born workers).

(ii) Reform “Optional Practical Training” for foreign students and graduates from U.S. universities (and make it easier for those on student visas studying science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) to remain after graduation for training and work opportunities).

(iii) Promote research and development in the U.S. (and make it easier for foreign investors, researchers and founders of start-up enterprises to conduct research and development and create jobs in the U.S.).

(iv) Bring greater consistency to the L-1B “intracompany transferee” visa program (and make it easier for companies to manage their global workforce).

(v) Clarify guidelines for worker portability (and make it easier for adjustment of status applicants to accept promotions and change jobs without affecting their employment-based green card process).

4) Expand the Form I-601A, provisional waiver program 

The provisional waiver program for the 3/10 year unlawful presence bar, which USCIS introduced in 2013, will expand to spouses and children of lawful permanent residents, as well as adult children of U.S. citizens. It will no longer be just for U.S. citizens’ spouses, parents, and children (unmarried and under 21).

To obtain the waiver, applicants must still prove their absence from the U.S. will create “extreme hardships” for their U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident spouse or parent (qualifying relative).

DHA plans to further clarify the “extreme hardship” standard that must be met to obtain the waiver. New guidelines and regulations will need to be issued for this to go into effect.

5) Promote the naturalization process

Lawful permanent residents who wish to naturalize will see some improvements in 2015. USCIS is expected to:

(i) Promote citizenship education and public awareness for lawful permanent resident;

(ii) Allow naturalization applicants to use credit cards to pay the application fee; and,

(iii) Assess potential for partial fee waivers.

A November 20 memorandum, titled Policies to Promote and Increase Access to U.S. Citizenship, states there are more than 8 million lawful permanent residents who are eligible, but who have not applied to become U.S. citizens. While the executive actions are meant to promote citizenship, they do not lower the eligibility requirements to become a U.S. citizen.

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To subscribe for email updates from USCIS on these executive actions, go to the Executive Actions on Immigration page on USCIS’ website.

This article provides general information only. Do not consider it as legal advice for any individual case or situation. Each legal case is different and case examples do not constitute a prediction or guarantee of success or failure in any other case. The sharing or receipt of this information does not create an attorney-client relationship.



Obama pledges immigration fix by executive order

Now that Republicans control the U.S. Senate in the wake of Tuesday’s midterm elections, President Obama promised to use executive orders to implement immigration reform.

In an interview on CBS’ Face the Nation, Obama said he had waited long enough for Congress to act. “I’m going to do what I can do through executive action,” Obama said. “It’s not going to be everything that needs to get done. And it will take time to put that in place.”

The U.S. government does not have the capacity to deport an estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants.  This year’s upsurge in apprehension of unaccompanied children from Central America at the Southwestern border put further strain on the immigration system.

Th U.S. Department of Homeland Security estimates that 68,541  unaccompanied children from El Salvador, Honduras, and other Central American countries have been apprehended this year, compared to 38,759 last year.

Although the numbers have since declined, the crisis sparked growing public concern over illegal immigration and weakened support for legalization of undocumented immigrants, according to some polls.

Immigration reform




“Everybody agrees the immigration system’s broken. And we’ve been talking about it for years now in terms of fixing it,” Obama said.

“I’d prefer and still prefer to see it done through Congress,” Obama added. “But every day that I wait, we’re misallocating resources, we’re deporting people that shouldn’t be deported, we’re not deporting folks that are dangerous and need to be deported.”

For national policy change to occur,  Congress must usually approve a bill before the president signs it into law. An executive order allows the president to bypass the legislative process to meet limited policy objectives.

The U.S. Senate passed a bipartisan immigration reform bill in July 2013, but it was not taken up by the U.S. House of Representatives, led by Speaker John Boehner.

In his first press conference since Tuesday’s midterm elections, Boehner said Obama will “poison the well” and “there will be no chance for immigration reform” if he pursues unilateral, executive action.

Executive orders provide only a temporary, short-term fix.  They can also be revoked by Congress, a federal appeals court, and the U.S. Supreme Court. Ultimately, Congress has to decide whether it will pass a bill to deal with permanent immigration reform.

Obama said that if a bill gets passed, “nobody’s going to be happier than me to sign it, because that means it will be permanent rather than temporary.” He noted, “the minute they pass a bill that addresses the problems of immigration reform, I will sign it and it supersedes whatever actions I take.”

Watch the full interview on CBS’ Face the Nation here.

This article provides general information only. Do not consider it as legal advice for any individual case or situation. Each legal case is different and case examples do not constitute a prediction or guarantee of success or failure in any other case. The sharing or receipt of this information does not create an attorney-client relationship.


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Photo by: SEIU