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The Golden Door

News and views on immigration law

Archive for December, 2014

Limited new benefits in the pipeline for unauthorized immigrants

Tuesday, December 2nd, 2014

As many of you have heard, on November 20, 2014, President Obama announced significant changes in how some of our immigration enforcement actions and benefits applications will be handled.  The goal of these changes is to allow certain unauthorized immigrants to register with the government to apply for work permits and a temporary reprieve from any deportation action, to make the process of obtaining lawful status through family-based immigration less traumatic for certain other unauthorized immigrants, and to make it easier for foreign nationals currently in lawful status to stay in the country to launch or participate in economy-stimulating or job-making ventures, rather than take their education and skills earned here in the United States back to their home countries.

For the unauthorized immigrant population, the most significant of these changes is the creation of the Deferred Action for Parental Accountability (“DAPA”) program.  The DAPA program will be similar to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (“DACA”) program, which was first announced in June 2012.  Both programs grant deferral from deportation to a segment of the unauthorized immigrant population.  DACA benefited those who came to the United States before age 16, were under age 31 in June 2012 (this upper age limit will be lifted soon), are in school or have  successfully completed at least a high school education, and have a pretty clean criminal record.  DAPA will benefit the parents of children who are U.S. citizens or U.S. permanent residents if these parents have continuously resided in the United States since January 1, 2010, so long as they do not fall into an enforcement priority category.

I can tell you from personal experience that DAPA will benefit many people whom I have consulted with over the years.  These individuals had lived in the United States for several years at least, and some for a decade or more, and had established families here including U.S. citizen children.  Due, however, to the current state of our immigration laws there was no route for them to become lawful permanent residents and thus at the end of these consultations I had to regretfully inform them that there was nothing that I could do to help them, unless the law changes.

Well, the law has not changed, and there is still no route for these individuals to become lawful permanent residents.  But, the government is now offering a halfway measure:  deferral from deportation and a work permit for a three-year period, which in turn means a valid Social Security number, which in many cases will lead in turn to a valid driver’s license or non-driver ID card.  It is not permanent lawful status, but it is a way to be less vulnerable to things like worker abuse, or crime directed at those known to deal in cash only because they do not have access to banks or other financial institutions.  It is temporary lawful presence, although not lawful status.  Hopefully the immigrants who qualify for this benefit will help their communities be safer and less vulnerable to exploitation by criminals and scammers.

The caveat to applying for DACA or DAPA is that since these programs are executive actions they can be changed upon executive discretion, meaning the next U.S. president can terminate these programs and, if so moved, start deportation proceedings against the individuals who registered for these programs.  There is absolutely no promise that these benefits will continue beyond the Obama presidential administration.

The DAPA program will begin accepting applications in about six months’ time.  Until then, those parents of U.S. citizen and permanent resident children who  qualify for it should start collecting proof of their identity, proof of the parent-child relationship, and that they have lived in the United States continuously since January 1, 2010.  Tran Law Associates can help you identify the documents needed and help you navigate the application process.