President Obama’s Executive Action on Immigration Reform

On November 20, 2014, President Obama announced that he would take a series of executive actions, also known as Immigration Accountability Executive Actions, to improve the current immigration system in the absence of congressional action to enact immigration reform. Utilizing a quadrant of components to fully reform the immigration system, Obama’s efforts to build a nondiscriminatory, operative and sustainable structure will not only affect millions of undocumented immigrants, but also U.S. employers and foreign workers. The following is a brief summary of the proposed executive actions:

Expansion on Deferred Action

The focus of Obama’s announcement is a new Deferred Action for Parents (DAP) program, which seeks to preserve family units by permitting parents of U.S. Citizens and lawful permanent residents to apply for temporary deferrals of deportation in a program similar to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. The DAP program is expected to take effect within 180 days following Obama’s November 20th announcement. In addition, Obama expanded the current DACA program by eliminating age restrictions. Continuous residence will be required from January 1, 2010, and DACA will be grated in three year increments. The DACA expansion will take effect within 90 days following Obama’s November 20th announcement.

Streamlining Legal Immigration

For those who have legally complied with immigration regulations and protocols, Obama seeks to modernize and possibly eliminate strenuously elongated waiting periods and provide immigrants with a system that is easy to navigate. This comprehensive revision of legislation will look at modernizing the current visa system to eradicate current backlogs existing within family and employment-based petitions. By expanding annual visa allowances, determining whether derivatives should be counted towards the annual visa quota or utilizing unused visa numbers that can be recaptured, Obama seeks to make more efficient use of the current allotment of immigrant visas.

Increased Immigration Options for Foreign Entrepreneurs

By expanding immigration options for foreign entrepreneurs who meet certain criteria for creating jobs, attracting investment, and generating revenue in the United States, a full strengthening of our economy is expected. Obama’s proposals provides for an authorized parole of eligible inventors, researcher, entrepreneurs, and start-up enterprises. Further, an expansion and clarification for entrepreneurs to take advantage of the national interest waiver category will result in a more effective avenue to permanent residence in the United States.

• Additional Benefits for Employment-Based Immigrants and Foreign Workers

In addition to the above-referenced proposals to streamline legal immigration and provide additional immigration options for foreign entrepreneurs, Obama’s proposal will have a substantial effect on employment-based immigration and respectively U.S. employers. Specifically, foreign workers that face long and strenuous visa backlogs will be able to request a “preregistration” of their adjustment of status applications, ensuring that they will receive certain benefits including employment authorization and further clarity on job mobility. In exciting news for multinational corporations that seek to easily transfer key employees, Obama has requested clear, consolidated guidance on the meaning of “specialized knowledge” in a move that seeks greater efficiency in the use of the L-1B Visa. Further expansion and changes would be made to the Optional Practical Training program to provide benefits to foreign students studying in the areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) by elongating the eligibility period for STEM extension. Lastly, the previously proposed regulation of allowing certain H-4 spouses to apply for the benefit of employment authorization is expected to be finalized.

Continuing to Strengthen Border Security

In the wake of doubling the amount of Border Patrol agents, Obama’s administrative efforts have sanctioned methods in order to ensure the safety of American communities and combat transnational crime. This includes, but is not limited to, a rigorous enforcement in persecuting criminal networks facilitating immigration document fraud and human trafficking; increasing surveillance efforts to cover the Southwest border in its entirety; and proactively battling transnational criminal organizations while simultaneously endorsing economic prosperity in affected border city regions.

Cracking Down on Employers Hiring Undocumented Workers

In the application of a national structure that enables businesses and corporate organizations to both efficiently and truthfully authenticate an immigrant’s employment status, businesses will legally operate within this immigration reform and eliminate an exploitation of the system. In turn, businesses employing illegal employment practices will be penalized accordingly. With this action, U.S. employers must be on top of ensuring compliance in areas of employment and immigration law.

President Obama’s recently presented executive actions reflect some of the most exciting and thriving proposals in American immigration of the 21st century. Importantly, Obama’s executive actions must be implemented with regulations in most instances, and therefore the final rules that provide for an implementation of any of the proposed actions may not be in place for several months and possibly not until the end of 2015 for many of the reforms outside of DAP and DACA.

Green and Spiegel will continue to monitor immigration reform closely and welcome those who could potentially benefit from a change in the law to add themselves to our mailing list.