Obama Announced Deferred Action for Young Immigrants in U.S.

On June 15, 2012, U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano and President Obama announced that certain young people who were brought to the United States as young children, who do not present a risk to national security or public safety, and meet several key criteria will be considered for relief from removalfrom the country or from entering into removal proceedings. Those who demonstrate that they meet the criteria will be eligible to receive deferred action for a period of two years, subject to renewal, and will be eligible to apply for work authorization.

Under this directive, individuals who demonstrate that they meet the following criteria will be eligible for deferred action, on a case-by-case basis AND can apply for work authorization in the U.S. if they meet the following criteria:

1. Came to the United States under the age of sixteen;

2. Have continuously resided in the United States for a least five years preceding the date of this memorandum (June 15, 2012) and are present in the United States on the date of this memorandum (June 15, 2012);

3. Are currently in school, have graduated from high school, have obtained a general education development certificate, or are honorably discharged veterans of the Coast Guard or Armed Forces of the United States;

4. Have not been convicted of a felony offense, a significant misdemeanor offense, multiple misdemeanor offenses, or otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety;

5. Are not above the age of thirty.

Only those individuals who can prove through verifiable documentation that they meet these criteria will be eligible for deferred action and work authorization. Individuals will not be eligible if they are not currently in the United States and cannot prove that they have been physically present in the United States for a period of not less than 5 years immediately preceding June 15, 2012. Illegal immigrant children won’t be eligible to apply for this benefit of deferred action and work authorization until they turn 16, but the officials said younger children won’t be deported either.

This policy will not lead toward citizenship but will remove the threat of deportation and grant the ability to work legally, leaving eligible immigrants able to remain in the United States for an extended period.  The use of deferred action confers no substantive right, immigration status, or pathway to citizenship. Deferred action means DHS will temporarily halt any removal (deportation) proceedings against you for a certain period of time (a sort of temporary deportation waiver).

For young adult immigrants, this new policy gives them an opportunity to further their education or work skill since work authorization will grant them a social security number for enrollment in college and other certificate programs.  Currently, undocumented young immigrants cannot attend college or certificate programs since most do not have a social security number.  The U.S. will benefit from this policy because college enrollment may increase, military enrollment may increase, and various revenue streams such as car sales and home sales may increase with young adults acquiring purchasing power through working and obtaining social security numbers.

While this guidance takes effect immediately as of June 15, 2012, USCIS and ICE expect to begin implementation of the application processes within sixty days.  So, right now there is no process set out where eligible applicants can apply for deferred action or work authorization, however, the application process will be forthcoming.  Also, there has been no indication as to how long the process will take for an eligible immigrant to obtain work authorization.

For individuals who are in removal proceedings and have already been identified as meeting the eligibility criteria and have been offered an exercise of discretion as part of Immigration and Custom Removal (ICE) ICE ongoing case-by-case review, ICE will immediately begin to offer them deferred action for a period of two years, subject to renewal.

Though President Obama has been criticized for implementing this policy to gain political momentum among the Latino and immigrant voters, however, this initiative is the step in the right direction for our country to retain educated young adults in a time where we need skilled and educated workers.

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