On Thursday evening, November 20, 2014, President Obama summarized his Immigration Accountability Executive Actions. This will signal the beginning of contentious political debate that should go on for at least the next few months. The President’s ability to unilaterally act on immigration will likely be challenged, and both Democrats and Republicans will seek to win in the court of public opinion. It will take the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) at least several months to implement the President’s proposals.
Some of the key provisions include:
- Enforcement Priorities. A major thrust will be the enforcement against terrorists, convicted felons and other bad actors.
- Border Security. Both sides tend to agree that without effective border security meaningful immigration initiatives will not work.
- Deportation. The slogan here is “Deport Felons, Not Families”. To this end, there are relief provisions which will change the status of persons now subject to deportation.
- Deferred Action for parents of U.S. Citizens and Lawful Permanent Residents continuously present in the U.S. since January 1, 2010. Such persons must pass background checks and pay taxes to be eligible for Deferred Action which will be granted for a three year period.
- Expanding Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) to cover additional “Dreamers.” Under the initial DACA program, young people who have been in the U.S. for at least five years, came as children and meet specific education and public safety criteria are eligible for temporary relief from deportation as long as they were born after 1981 and entered the U.S. before June 15, 2007. The government is expanding DACA so that individuals who were brought to this country as children can apply if they entered before January 1, 2010 regardless of how old they are today.
- Work Site Enforcement.
- Foreign Entrepreneurs. Certain investors will be favored under the new proposals. They will be granted parole (the ability to enter the U.S. and stay) for job creation. Also favored will be researchers, inventors and founders of companies. Foreign entrepreneurs must meet certain criteria for creating jobs, attracting investment and generating revenue in the U.S. The bottom line is to help grow the economy.
- Providing portable work authorization for high-skilled workers and their spouses awaiting lawful permanent resident (LPR) status.
- Strengthening and extending on-the-job training for “STEM” graduates with U.S. universities. This refers to students studying science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Of late, the U.S. has been losing highly educated foreign nationals– particularly Chinese and Indian nationals– who are not favored under the current immigration laws.
- Streamlining the labor certification process for foreign workers and their employers while protecting American workers.
- Reducing family separation for those waiting to obtain LPR status. It often takes years under current law and practice for a family to be reunified.
- Visa modernization. Under the current system, there is not an optimal use of the number of visas available under the law. Instead, there are overcomplicated rules and pointless visa quotas. A streamlining will be welcomed.
Estimates of those foreign nationals affected range from five to ten million. It would be rare for a U.S. business of any size not to be affected, and the political ramifications will be momentous with the increase in Hispanic voters.