March 2015 Bar Bulletin
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March 2015 Bar Bulletin

Executive Actions on Immigration: What's New?

By Qingqing Miao


On November 20, President Obama announced the Immigration Accountability Executive Actions, which include a series of measures that are considered as the first step toward a broader reform to the immigration system. On February 16, Andrew S. Hanen, a U.S. District Court judge in Texas, issued a preliminary injunction order prohibiting the government from implementing the expansion of the DACA program and the new DAPA program. For now, there will be a lot of uncertainties.

Barring the unknown, the president's administrative initiatives range from new temporary immigration protections for eligible individuals to technical regulatory proposals to improve the outdated visa provisions. Major initiatives include:

  • An expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Under the expanded DACA program, individuals of any current age who entered the United States before the age of 16 and have lived in the United States continuously since January 1, 2010, may be eligible for deferred action and work authorization.
  • A new Deferred Action for Parental Accountability (DAPA) program. The DAPA program will allow an eligible individual who is the parent of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident to request deferred action and work authorization.
  • Expanding provisional unlawful presence waivers. Under the new initiative, the qualifying relative will include spouses, sons and daughters of lawful permanent residents, and the sons and daughters (over 21 years old) of U.S. citizens.
  • Improving and clarifying immigrant and nonimmigrant visa programs. This will include a series of actions by the government agencies to streamline and improve existing policies and procedures to provide clarity and efficiency to the existing programs.
  • Promoting citizenship education and public awareness of lawful permanent residents. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will implement programs that encourage naturalization and make it more efficient for qualified permanent residents to become U.S. citizens.

Government agencies, including the USCIS, are responsible for implementing these initiatives. As a result, over the coming months we will be expecting new policies, guidelines and instructions on implementing these new measures.

The USCIS was initially scheduled to begin accepting requests for expanded DACA applications on February 18. With the preliminary injunction in place, however, the program could not go forward as scheduled. The future of the expanded DACA program remains to be seen.

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