Deferred Action Under the Executive Order

Almost two decades have passed since a major reform was enacted to the country’s immigration laws. In the absence of reform, the immigration system has become increasingly broken and is failing American families, businesses and communities. Nationwide polling has shown that Americans want major reform. In network exit polls from the November 2014 election, 57 percent of voters preferred that “illegal immigrants working in the U.S.” be offered legal status instead of deportation.

An estimated 11.5 million people are living in the country without legal status. Most have families and jobs, but cannot work legally and must exist in the shadows. Such a large unauthorized population is not good for the country’s society or economy. These individuals are also subject to immigration enforcement and deportation. In the past several years, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has deported hundreds of thousands of parents of U.S. citizens–approximately 23 percent of all deportations–causing painful separations of families.

The President’s announcement offers deferred action–a temporary reprieve from enforcement–for two distinct categories of people. Though it does not cover the entire unauthorized population of approximately 11.5 million, the program has the potential to register and bring out of the shadows an estimated population of up to 4.4 million people. To qualify, applicants for deferred action will have to demonstrate that they meet stringent eligibility criteria, submit biometric information, and pass a background check. They will be eligible to apply for work authorization.

Deferred Action for Parental Accountability (DAPA)

 DHS will establish a deferred action program for the unauthorized parents of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident (LPR) child born on or before November 20, 2014. To qualify individuals must have lived in the United States continuously since or before January 1, 2010. They must also demonstrate they were in the United States on November 20, 2014 and on the date they apply. Deferred action will be granted for three years. Over four million people are estimated to be eligible to apply for this program. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) should be ready to receive DAPA applications within 180 days of the announcement.

Expansion of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)

 DHS will expand the pool of DREAMers (people brought to the United States as children) eligible for the DACA program that was first created in June 2012. Under the expanded program, individuals are eligible if they entered the country before January 1, 2010, can demonstrate continuous presence in the United States since then, and were under the age of 16 at the time they entered. When first established, DACA required that individuals be under the age of 31 at the time of application, but the new program has no current age limit.

The expanded DACA program will now grant deferred action for three years. Previously DACA granted deferred action for two year periods. Initial DACA applicants and those renewing their status will be eligible for a three-year grant of deferred action and work authorization. About 300,000 individuals will be eligible for this expanded version of DACA. USCIS should be ready to receive applications under the new DACA program within 90 days of the announcement.