Obama’s Executive Action: What Does the Future Hold?

Wow! What a night! In case you missed it, you can read the President’s announcement here Transcript of President Obama Speech on November 20, 2014.

What does it mean for all of the immigrants in the United States? Certainly, we and a lot of other attorneys and immigrants — and also the USCIS — is trying to determine that exactly. The bad news is that we don’t know everything just yet. And the good news is that we don’t know everything yet. I’ll speak more about that later.

But in the meantime, this is what we have:

– Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (“DACA”): there is now no age cap; as long as the person came to the USA before they turned 16, and before January 1, 2010, they are eligible. So if you came as a child in 1993, like journalist and immigrant activist Jose Antonio Vargas, then you are eligible for DACA (I am sure his attorneys are preparing to terminate his removal proceedings about now!).  This should expand the program. And speaking of expanding the program, if your application is now pending or you haven’t filed yet, it will be approved for 3 years, not two.  Very good news for a lot of young people who definitely deserve it.

– There are a lot of immigrants who come into my office who have U.S. citizen children, and I tell them I can’t help them under the law. But last night changed my answer! So, for immigrants who have been in the United States since January 1, 2010, and have U.S. citizen or U.S. Permanent Resident children, they get Deferred Action now, too.

– More immigrants are going to be eligible for the I-601A Provisional Waivers. Just Wednesday I spoke with a young DACA recipient whose mother isn’t a citizen but has a greencard. This young man may very well be able to get status now through his mother. And until he does, he is living, working, and traveling here, thanks to DACA.

– It looks like good news for immigrant investors. It appears that USCIS will make new rules for Entrepreneurs coming to the United States to invest. This includes entrepreneurs who have managed to obtain investment in the United States, or can demonstrate their technology is going to be a job-creator.

– The fees for the N-400 Application for Naturalization are probably going to go down, and greencard holders will be able to pay with a credit card. This is a win, to get greencard holders on the road to citizenship.

So, this is what we have so far, but it seems that every hour we are receiving something new from the Department of Homeland Security, helping understand just how far this Executive Action reaches. But I wanted to end this post with some encouragement, as well as caution.

The caution is that, with the exception of DACA recipients, NONE of the above changes have occurred yet. That means there is no place to apply. No form to fill out. And NOBODY should be paying for any services until it’s understand how this is going to work. Please everyone, protect yourselves and your loved ones from fraud. Don’t take advice from a non-attorney, and frankly I don’t think it’s a good idea to take immigration advice from anyone other than the best immigration attorney you can find.

The good news is that even though a lot of immigrants are not covered by this Executive Action directly, they are covered indirectly. And by that I mean that the President has now ordered ICE to focus on the terrorists, the criminals, and the recent border crossers. If you or your immigrant loved one isn’t a terrorist, a criminal, or a recent border crosser, you have little to fear as far as getting detained by ICE. That is good news, because it means that everyday, hardworking people are not going to get detained and deported; it’s also good news because the criminals and terrorists will get deported. Sounds like a win-win for all.

Finally, above I mentioned that we don’t know everything yet about this new Executive Action, and we believe that is a good thing. Because the more gray areas there are, the more we can advocate for our clients. Remember that back in 1986, Congress passed a new immigration law that gave millions of undocumented immigrants a chance to remain in the United States; unfortunately, that law didn’t cover the family members of the immigrants. So in 1990, George H.W. Bush used Executive Action to include family members in that law. So no matter what we have at this time, remember that it can always get better as we work out the details.

Stay tuned for more!

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