Administration Executive Action on immigration backgrounder (December 2014)


What does the President’s November executive action concerning immigration do?

Overall, the Administration’s reforms fall into three categories: 1) changes to immigration enforcement policy; 2) widening the scope of “deferred action” (non-deportation) policies to include many more persons; and, 3) changes to our legal immigration system. The modifications to these categories deal with three immediate immigration needs, as identified by the Administration:

  1. Cracking down on illegal immigration at the border. The President will continue the surge of resources that the Administration has found to reduce the number of unaccompanied children crossing the border illegally this past summer. The administration will also continue to take steps to consolidate border security efforts by the Department of Homeland Security through centralizing border security command-and-control, and by developing new task forces to coordinate the numerous federal actors at the southern border.
  2. Deporting felons, not families. Immigration enforcement officials have now been directed to place anyone suspected of terrorism, violent criminals, gang members, and recent border crossers at the top of the deportation priority list. The Obama Administration announced a new “Priority Enforcement Program” (PEP) to replace the former, and controversial, Secured Communities program. The PEP is a new model of federal/state/local cooperation that aims to better focus its efforts on convicted criminals, instead of all unauthorized immigrants encountered by local authorities. The intent with the change is to more effectively and swiftly identify and remove those convicted of criminal offenses. Additionally, the President announced that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) would not deport certain undocumented parents of U.S. citizens and parents of lawful permanent residents (LPRs). He also announced an expansion of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program for youth who came to the United States as children. Under the directive from the secretary of DHS, these parents and youth may be granted a type of temporary permission to stay in the U.S. called “deferred action.” While creating a deferred action that allows more families to remain intact (in the near future), the deferred action will also require registering and passing criminal and national security background checks in the effort to help ensure undocumented immigrants are paying their share of taxes.

    CLICK HERE to see a flow chart about who may qualify.

  3. Changes to the legal immigration system include, for example, revising the provisional waiver program for spouses and children of permanent, lawful residents; addressing some of the barriers to the U.S. citizenship naturalization process; and, trying to improve the process for U.S. businesses wanting to obtain and retain high-skilled workers.

What is “deferred action”?

Deferred action is a temporary relief from deportation. Through the process a person is authorized to remain in the United States temporarily and to receive employment authorization. A grant of deferred action does not provide a path to lawful permanent resident status or U.S. citizenship. The Deferred Action for Parental Accountability (DAPA) process shall be available to people with final orders of removal who meet certain criteria (outlined HERE and HERE). Applicants must pay a $465 filing fee and submit to biometrics, among other things.

Do the President’s actions address the concerns that the U.S. Catholic bishops have with our current immigration system?

Following the President’s announcement, Bishop Eusebio Elizondo, M.Sp.S., auxiliary bishop of Seattle and chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Committee on Migration, welcomed the news that the new deferred action announcement would help keep families together and protect children for the time being. But, the USCCB also reiterated its call for Congress and the President to work together to create permanent reforms that provide for earned legalization opportunities, including a path to citizenship.

Is the president granting the equivalent of amnesty to illegal immigrants with the executive order?

No. The President is exercising his discretion to defer enforcement action on a number of undocumented immigrant parents who fit certain criteria and are otherwise eligible for deportation. He is not granting them legal resident status. He is basically just moving them to the back of a very long line of potential deportees as a way to prioritize deporting felons and keeping families intact, as possible.

How does the president’s executive order compare to the relief granted in 2012 to the so-called DREAMers?

Two years ago, the President took nearly identical action. He extended protections from deportations and allowed for the granting of work permits to up to 1.2 million “DREAMers,” who came to the U.S. with their parents as young children and remained. His latest action extends the protection from deportation to an additional 4 million illegal immigrants and increases the timeframe for that protection from two years to three years.

Among the potentially newly-covered are an additional 700,000 DREAMers, and 3.3 million parents of a child who is a U.S. citizen or legal resident.

Of the estimated 5 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. who may be covered by the president’s executive action, how many will come forward to apply for deferred action status and claim a work permit?

That remains unclear. The president’s action is designed to encourage people who have been living illegally in the U.S. to “come out of the shadows.” But it does not shield them from potential prosecution for identity theft or Social Security fraud. Those who are using a false identity to remain in the country might lose their job.

Of the 1.2 million DREAMers granted deferred action status in June 2012, only half—roughly 600,000—have so far come forward.

Have other presidents taken similar executive action in immigration cases?

Presidents Kennedy, Reagan, George H.S. Bush, and George W. Bush all used their executive authority to defer immigration enforcement against a certain class of non-citizens. Unlike Obama, each of those presidents was acting with the support of Congress. The bottom line, though, is that our country’s immigration statutes—passed by Congress—authorize the President to use broad discretion.



CLINIC (Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc.) Administrative Relief resources for immigrant parishioners and others

USCCB news release statement on the Administration’s Immigration Executive Action

Summary of New Immigration Enforcement Priorities and Program Changes

Immigration Policy Center’s “A Guide to Immigration Accountability Executive Action

Star Tribune: “Minnesota Immigrants Facing Deportation Hope For Reversal”