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How Does the President’s Action Impact Immigration in the US

On November 20th, 2014 President Obama announced an executive action changing Immigration in the US in such a way to potentially shield 5 million people from deportation.  An executive action differs from an executive order in that it is not legally binding.The change in policy will add an estimated 300,000 individuals to the population of Dreamers – those who qualify under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.  These are the children of illegal immigrants who were brought to the US by their parents. The president’s act extends protection to those who arrived as minors before January 1, 2010 (the cutoff was previously June 15th, 2007).  Age limits will also be eliminated.

Parents who have lived in the US for at least 5 years and who are parents of lawful permanent residents or US citizens became eligible for deferred action and a 3- year work permit.  This affects about 4 million illegal immigrants.  The president’s action does not apply to the parents of children who received work permits under the DACA program.

Applications for qualified immigrants will be available in early 2015. Applicants must pass a background check and pay a fee.   Although they can apply for a Social Security card, they will not be entitled to benefits.  In fact, only an act of Congress can change the law on benefits or grant citizenship.

Business groups expressed disappointment in that the act does not expand the number of visas available to high and low skilled temporary workers.  However, a program which permits highly-skilled students to work while applying for a visa was extended.  In addition, changing jobs will be easier for students who already have work visas.

The president intends to focus agency resources on deportation of illegal immigrants who threaten public safety and national security.  This includes felons, gang members, those guilty of domestic violence or drug trafficking and offenders with at least 3 misdemeanors.  Enforcement actions will also target illegal immigrants arriving after January 1, 2014.

Besides focused deportation, the president intends to concentrate on protection at the border.

The act also ends the Secure Communities program which detained undocumented immigrants who came to the attention of local law enforcement.  It is replaced with the Priority Enforcement Program, which will only detain those convicted of a crime.

By making targeted deportation and border security a priority, the president’s action also brought some relief to the 6 million illegal immigrants living in the US who do not quality for protection.

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