Executive Action on Immigration: What does it mean for you?

by Leah L. Tuisavalalo
For Ta'iala Immigration Blog

(FRESNO, Calif.)-On Nov. 20 and 21, 2014, President Barack Obama announced the administration's "Immigration Accountability Executive Action." The plan that the President outlined is designed to help reform the immigration system and ranges from measures to enhance border security, to new temporary protections for many of the people living in the United States without permission. Many of these changes, will directly affect members of the Pacific Islander community. With this blog, I will highlight the two most pertinent changes.

DAPA: DEFERRED ACTION FOR PARENTAL ACCOUNTABILITY

This program is a form of "prosecutorial discretion," which means that it is controlled by United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS or "Immigration"), and it is in their sole discretion to grant or deny applications. It will provide the parents of Lawful Permanent Residents (LPR or "green card holders") or United States Citizens, authorization to work and relief from the threat of removal or deportation. In order to qualify, you will have to meet the following criteria:

​-Have US Citizen or Resident son or daughter as of November 20, 2014
​-Have continuously resided in the US since before January 1, 2010
​-​Be physically present in the US on November 20, 2014, and at the time that you apply
​-Have no lawful immigration status on November 20, 2014
​-​Not be an "enforcement priority," which includes various criminal convictions, ​​​​suspicions of gang involvement and terrorism, recent unlawful entries into the country, ​​​and other immigration violations

If you qualify, you will be granted work authorization for three years, which will include a valid social security number. You may also be able to travel outside of the US with advance permission from USCIS, and only in certain circumstances. If travel becomes necessary, it is important to seek competent legal advice before attempting to exit the country. If you travel without first obtaining the proper permission from USCIS, including paperwork that will guarantee you are allowed to reenter the US, you could be banned from returning. Applications for the DAPA program have not yet been released, however, the administration estimated that they would be ready within 180 days of the initial announcement--May 19, 2015.

EXPANSION OF DACA: DEFERRED ACTION FOR CHILDHOOD ARRIVALS

In 2012, USCIS began the DACA program for young people who were brought to the US as children. Prior to this announcement, applicants had to be under the age of 31 on June 15, 2012 and show that they had been continuously present in the country since June 15, 2007, along with proof that they attended school here in the US and either graduated from high school or achieved equivalent diploma or were currently enrolled in high school or an equivalent program. With the new executive action, there will no longer be any age limit for applicants and they will only have to show that they have been in the US continuously since January 1, 2010. In order to qualify, you will have to meet the following criteria:

​-​Arrived in the US before your 16th birthday
​-Have lived continuously in the US since January 1, 2010
​-​Be physically present in the US on November 20, 2014, and at the time that you apply
​-Have no lawful immigration status on November 20, 2014
​-​Have graduated or obtained a certificate of completion from high school, have obtained a ​​​general education development (GED) certificate, or be "in school" on the date you ​​​submit your application
​-Have not been convicted of any felony or "significant misdemeanor," or three or more ​​​misdemeanor offenses

The new expanded DACA will be good for three years and applicants will be granted work authorization and a valid social security number. Similar to DAPA, DACA applicants may be able to travel with advanced permission from USCIS and only in certain circumstances. USCIS will begin accepting applications on Feb. 20, 2015. The immigration filing fees for DAPA and DACA will be $465, which includes a biometrics (finger print fee) of $85.

While these new changes will help millions of people living in this country without legal status, they do not grant any type of permanent status, nor are they a pathway to permanent legal status at this point. They grant temporary status for three years which will need to be renewed every three years, unless the law changes. It is very important that you seek the advice of an immigration attorney or certified representative before filing, not only to determine your eligibility for DAPA or DACA, but also to see if you might be eligible for a more permanent form of relief. This is especially true for any applicant who has an arrest record or criminal convictions, or someone who has multiple immigration violations.

(As always, immigration law is difficult to navigate and every case is unique. This blog is meant to provide general information, and cannot address every avenue of relief that may be available. Additionally, immigration law is always changing and that can change options available to you. You should always consult with an immigration lawyer before filing for anything.)