On November 20, 2014, President Obama addressed the nation to discuss the executive action that will affect millions of immigrants, a significant step forward, providing deportation relief to an estimated 5 million people, who will be able to come out of the shadow. The President’s action is a direct consequence of the unwillingness of the House to act on the Comprehensive Immigration Reform bill passed by the Senate in the summer of 2013.
The President's announcement is not unprecedented. In fact, every president since Eisenhower— Republican and Democrat—has taken executive action on immigration. In 1990, President George H.W. Bush unilaterally implemented the Family Fairness Program, giving opportunities for deferred action and work authorization to 40% of America's undocumented population.
It is important to understand that Executive Action are just instructions given by the President to the Executive Branch of Government on how to apply current legislation. It is not the Comprehensive Immigration Reform, we are hoping for, that only Congress can enact.
President Obama’s Executive Action will:
A. Allow 4.1 million parents of U.S.-born or resident children, who have been in the US for over 5 years, to apply for deferred action and a renewable three-year work permit (DAPA).
B. Expand the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program to include older applicants, and move up the year of arrival for eligibility (Expanded DACA). Since its inception two years ago, DACA has kept an estimated 700,000 students and their families together. Expanding DACA will cover 300,000 more Dreamers and lift the fear of deportation from the lives of many young people.
C. Establish three levels of enforcement priorities when it comes to the detention, apprehension and removal of illegal immigrants:
- Priority 1 covers suspected terrorists, spies, those with felony convictions and those caught trying to illegally cross the border;
- Priority 2 includes those convicted of three or more minor criminal misdemeanor or a "significant misdemeanor," such as domestic violence, burglary or driving under the influence;
- Priority 3 covers those that were issued an order of removal on or before Jan. 1, 2014.
Bishop Jaime Soto of Sacramento and President of the California Catholic Conference welcomed the President’s Executive Action on immigration and issued the following statement:
"Comprehensive immigration reform is long overdue in the United States. The Bishops of California welcome the President’s action to offer some humanitarian relief for hard-working families who have lived in the shadows for too long.
“As pastors we witness firsthand the needless strain and pain the broken immigration system has inflicted on our communities. Respect for human life and dignity demands that our national leaders put people before politics. They should reform the immigration system, adhering to the traditional, sound principals of U.S. immigration: family unity, proper protection of our borders, and addressing the root cause of forced migration. An essential part of the solution should include a legalization program with an earned path to citizenship.
“We acknowledge that many will find some hope and peace-of-mind by this action. Parents and children will no longer live in fear of being separated. Growers and other employers will know their valued, productive employees are safe. Law enforcement will be able to work more closely with immigrant families to ensure the safety and tranquility of their communities. As we have done for many years through our Catholic Charities and other partners, we will continue to assist them in obtaining the benefits provided by law.
“We advise caution and patience while the details of the President’s order are carefully evaluated. With time, we will understand how the order will be implemented. Be wary of any unscrupulous attempts to exploit unsuspecting immigrants by offering quick solutions.
“We call on Congress and the President to work together toward a more comprehensive response to the humanitarian crisis of a broken immigration system. We will work with the California Congressional delegation and the President to accomplish that goal.”
Both DAPA and expanded DACA provide deferred action for a renewable three-year period to people, who previously did not have legal status in the United States. DHS will grant deferred action on a case-by-case basis, even when filing applicants will meet all requirements. The federal government will consider the persons granted deferred action to be lawfully present in the U.S. for the duration of the deferred action status.
Requirements to be eligible for deferred action under DAPA:
- Be the parent of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident.
- Have continuously lived in the U.S. since January 1, 2010.
- Have been present in the U.S. on November 20, 2014. (Implementation regulation will also likely require presence in the U.S. every day since Nov 20, 2014).
- Not have a lawful immigration status. To meet this requirement, (1) one must have entered the U.S. without papers, or, if entered lawfully, the lawful immigration status must have expired; and (2) one must not have a lawful immigration status on the date of DAPA application.
- Have not been convicted of serious criminal offenses, including any felonies and some misdemeanors.
Requirements to be eligible for the expanded DACA program:
- Have come to the United States before the sixteenth birthday.
- Have continuously lived in the U.S. since January 1, 2010.
- Have been present in the U.S. on November 20, 2014, and every day since then.
- Not have a lawful immigration status. To meet this requirement, (1) one must have entered the U.S. without papers, or, if entered lawfully, the lawful immigration status must have expired before November 20, 2014; and (2) one must not have a lawful immigration status on the date of DAPA application.
- Have graduated or obtained a certificate of completion from high school, have obtained a 8 general education development (GED) certificate, or “be in school” on the date of submission of the deferred action application.
- Have not been convicted of serious criminal offenses and pass a background check.
How and when to request deferred action:
- The government will start accepting applications by February 20, 2015, from migrants who are eligible for expanded DACA, and by May 20, 2015, from migrants who are eligible for DAPA.
- The USCIS website will have more information in due time. (http://www.uscis.gov/)
- USCIS will conduct background checks as part of DAPA or expanded DACA request. These checks involve the biographic and biometric information provided in the application against databases kept by the federal government.
- For both DACA and DAPA, the application fee is $465, which consists of a $380 fee for the employment authorization application and an $85 fee for fingerprints. Fee waivers will be available in very limited circumstances.
How to qualify for DAPA and Extended DACA:
- Specific instructions about what documentation is acceptable are still pending but these are some useful things to know.
- DAPA applicants will need to establish their identity, their relationship to a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident son or daughter, and their continuous residence in the U.S. since January 1, 2010.
- Extended DACA applicants will only need to establish their identity and continuous residence in the U.S. since January 1, 2010.
- To prove that they have lived in the U.S. continuously since January 1, 2010, it is important to start gathering documents such as financial records (lease agreements, phone bills, and credit card bills), medical records, and school records (diplomas, GED certificates, report cards, school transcripts). It is advisable to have at least one document for each 12-month period since January 1, 2010, until the application for deferred action.
- If documents to establish presence in the U.S. are not available for part of the period between January 2010 and the time of application (i.e. there is a gap in the documentation), it is important to gather affidavits from at least two people, who have personal knowledge that the applicant was in the U.S. during that gap.
- To prove having a son or daughter, who is a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident, copies of the U.S. citizen son’s or daughter’s birth certificate or passport, naturalization certificate, or green card are needed.
- If the applicant has ever been arrested, a copy of criminal history from the state or from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is necessary. Also, obtain from each relevant court a letter describing what the judge ultimately decided in each case. This letter may be referred to as a “disposition letter” or “certificate of disposition.”
If there is an outstanding warrant, or even just the possibility that a warrant might be outstanding, consult with an attorney about what would be the best way to proceed.
Most of the above information is available from the website of the USCCB’s Migration and Refugee Service, Office of Migration Policy and Public Affairs (Website: www.usccb.org/mrs). There, you can also find a Spanish version of the above instructions.