Understanding DACA & DAPA: How Will Obama’s Immigration Plan Affect Immigrants?
On November 20, 2014, President Obama announced a series of executive actions to help deal with issues concerning illegal immigration. The goal of these actions is to help prevent illegal immigration at the border, to the focus on deporting felons rather than families, and provide non-criminal immigrants with families a means to obtain work authorization. It’s important to look deeper into the initiatives to get a better understanding of what they are and how they will affect immigrants.
Expansion of DACA
One of the most important elements of Obama’s Executive Action plan is the expansion of DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. This program is for those who came into the country before they were 16 years old and are attending school or have graduated from high school. This program has been in effect since January 1, 2010, but was expanded through Obama’s new plan. The expansion extends the validity period from two to three years, changed the effective date, and eliminated the age out restriction. Therefore, certain student immigrants who did not qualify for the previous DACA programs may qualify now.
What Is DAPA?
The Obama’s Immigration Action will also let the parents of US citizens and lawful permanent residents who have been in the country since January 1, 2010 to request deferred action and employment authorization for three years. This program, called DAPA, or the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents, is similar to DACA in the benefits offered, but applies to a different set of immigrants.
Some criminal offenses will prevent the applicant from qualifying, just as with DACA. However, there is some indication that the United States Citizenship and Immigration Servers will review DAPA requests on a case by case basis, therefore allowing for discretionary grants of benefits for those with minor disqualifying offenses.
Provisional Waivers of Unlawful Presence
If you have violated certain immigration laws, such as entering without a visa or remaining in the United States without legal status, the government will require you to be granted a waiver, or pardon, before granting you the benefit of permanent residence, also known as a ‘green card.’ To apply for a waiver, you must have a United States citizen spouse who would suffer extreme hardship if you could not live in the United States. Previously, applicants were only permitted to apply for the waiver while outside the United States. Because the review and approval process for the waivers could take many, many months, if not years, this could be a great burden on applicants and their families. Now, applicants can apply while inside the United States, allowing families to remain together during the adjudication process. Obama’s Executive Action further expanded the provisional waiver program to allow spouses of lawful permanent residents and sons and daughters of United States citizens to also apply.
A Big Overhaul
The overall goal of Obama’s Executive Action is to improve the immigrant and non-immigrant programs to make them better for the families involved, as well as to help grow the economy and create more jobs. This is very exciting news for those who are in the country and concerned about what may happen to them. It helps to alleviate many of the fears, and provides a roadmap of what steps to take to become ‘lawful’. Other, more nuanced provisions of the plan, aim to further make the legalization process quicker and easier to many others who already qualify under other laws or programs already in place. For example, it outlines a plan to encourage those eligible to apply for naturalization and promote more citizenship education.
Many people out there, approximately 4.9 million according to estimates, have been in limbo as immigrants out of status with no means of applying for legal status and knowing that leaving the country would mean they may never be able to return. The executive actions outlined by President Obama help to provide answers to many. These changes should all be implemented in 2015, and those individuals and families who may fall into these categories and want to know more about DACA, DAPA, and becoming a lawful permanent resident should get in touch with attorneys who specialize in the field to help make the application process much easier to handle.