On November 20, 2014, President Barack Obama publicly announced that he would use his executive authority to make sweeping changes to existing American immigration policy aimed at addressing nearly 5 million undocumented immigrants currently living in the country. The plan is intended to make it easier for law-abiding and hard-working immigrants and their families to remain in the United States while the government focuses on securing the borders and deporting convicted criminals.
Under the expanded parameters for deferred action, a) the parents of citizens and permanent residents of the United States who have been in the country for over five years and b) undocumented children of any current age who were brought to the United States before the age of 16, and who have continuously resided in the United States since January 1, 2010, can now qualify for deferred action.
After announcing these bold initiatives, Republicans in Congress claimed President Obama was overstepping his role as President and vowed to fight back.
Senate Attempts to Shut Down Immigration Reforms
One of the first moves undertaken by the new Republican-dominated House of Representatives has been to attack the immigration plans launched by Obama. This is being done by adding measures to a bill that funds the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). At the end of February 2015, DHS would not have any of the funding needed to operate as usual. Both Republicans and Democrats are using funding needs for government programs to advance their respective agendas.
The bill will reverse immigration measures such as:
- Deferring deportation for immigrants brought into the country at a very young age; and
- Granting temporary work authorization and deportation deferrals for millions more.
Republicans have not yet made a severe push regarding the bill. However, it is suggested that even if the bill passes the House and makes it to the Senate, Democratic leadership will need to sign onto it. This seems unlikely, since the measures are so extreme.
Is Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals safe?
Anticipating public backlash, it seems as though some of the extreme measures amount to political gamesmanship. Republicans may want to strongly cater to one side of the political spectrum in order to leave room for negotiations that will give them at least some of the results they want. One of the aspects that many speculate will probably not make it into the final bill is the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
Known as DACA, many immigrants who meet predetermined criteria are able to apply for a discretionary deferral of deportation and to receive employment authorization for a period of three years. This does not mean that they become permanent residents or citizens, but it encourages the process by allowing these individuals to work and attend school.
With so the Latino community being such a major beneficiary of DACA, its revocation would alienate many Latino voters and hurt the Republicans chances of regaining the White House in 2016. In addition, the President has threatened to use his veto power to block any action or bills targeting his immigration reform.
What should I expect as an immigrant?
Citing the recent attacks in Paris, both sides have argued that leaving the Department of Homeland Security unfunded would be extremely unwise. Leaving the nation open to potential terrorist attacks is something neither side seeks to do, but both Democrats and Republicans are using this to influence the President to sign their bills. In reality, however, DHS will likely be funded no matter what the outcome of the bill.
If you are wondering how you may be affected by any legislative changes to the immigration process, speak with an attorney today; call our office to schedule a consultation.