With the House refusing to vote this year on immigration reform, and an increasing tide of young people attempting to enter the United States from Latin America, President Barack Obama has announced plans to take executive action in changing current deportation policies and corresponding legislation.
It is rumored that President Obama will now seek to expand immigration protections. New executive action to change deportation policies could potentially affect up to 5 million undocumented immigrants. Possible action under debate would include providing temporary legal status and work authorization to undocumented immigrants with close family ties to U.S. citizens, or to undocumented immigrants who have lived in the U.S. for a specific time period. It is also possible President Obama will use executive action to authorize the availability of more foreign-worker visas for certain industries, most likely in the Science, Technology, Engineering and/or Mathematics (STEM) fields.
This would not be the first time President Obama has taken executive action on immigration. In 2012 President Obama created the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (“DACA”), which permitted undocumented immigrants who entered the U.S. as children before 2007 to obtain legal status in 2 year increments along with permission to work and, in some instances, permission to travel internationally.
While the Obama administration is currently seeking to firmly establish protections for some immigrants, his policies on deportation remain mixed. During his administration, President Obama has prioritized the deportation of certain classifications of immigrants, such as those with criminal convictions and those who have repeatedly crossed the border illegally. In addition, deportations were reported at a record high in 2012, with an estimated 400,000 immigrants deported annually, the maximum number funded by Congress.
In addition, there are strong indications that President Obama is going to move quickly through removal proceedings for Latin American children who have recently entered the United States illegally.
Moreover, it is clear the current push to increase immigration protection is, at least in part, politically motivated, causing widespread concern and fear in the immigrant community. Protections put in place could be short-lived depending on the results of this year’s midterm election and the Presidential election in 2016.
Immigration Reform has become the third-rail of Washington politics and it is almost impossible to predict how the next few months will play out for those anxiously awaiting change. If President Obama does indeed create an executive order to address immigration reform, affected foreign nationals should be cautiously optimistic and proceed with caution.
Green and Spiegel will continue to monitor this rumored immigration reform closely and welcome those who could potentially benefit from a change in the law to add themselves to our mailing list.