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Millions of deportations deferred under President's executive order

Last week, our blog discussed how Washington insiders were predicting that President Obama was on the verge of signing an executive order that would grant deportation relief to millions of undocumented immigrants.

As it turns out, these prognostications were correct as President Obama announced last Thursday evening via an evening address from the White House that he would soon be signing an executive order that adopted a "common-sense, middle ground approach" to immigration and depart from the current deportation policy that "rips families apart."

Specifically, the executive order will defer deportations for three years at a time, and grant work visas to roughly 3.7 million undocumented immigrants who meet the following criteria:

  • They must be parents of U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents, and have lived in the country for at least five years (since Jan. 1, 2010).
  • They must come forward to register with federal authorities, meaning they must pass background checks, submit biometric data, pay fees and provide the necessary documentation proving that their child was born prior to the date of President's announcement.

It should be noted that those undocumented immigrants who participate in the program will be required to pay taxes and will not be able to secure citizenship via this channel.

The President's announcement also indicated that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, introduced back in 2012 as a means to help young people who came to the U.S as children secure a two-year deportation deferral, would also be revised.

Specifically, the two-year deferral window would be changed to three years, while the eligibility date for DACA would be pushed to Jan. 1, 2010 to coincide with the new program.

In response to claims that his actions were tantamount to amnesty, President Obama offered the following response:

"Amnesty is the immigration system we have today --millions of people who live here without paying their taxes or playing by the rules, while politicians use the issue to scare people and whip up votes at election time," Obama said. "That's the real amnesty -- leaving this broken system the way it is."

Not surprisingly, lawmakers in the GOP-controlled House of Representatives were less than enthused by the President's actions. Indeed, many argued that he had exceeded his constitutional authority, a claim the administration has since rejected by citing actions taken by previous presidents both Republican and Democrat alike.

It remains to be how this important development influences the legal landscape in the coming months. Stay tuned for updates...

In our next post, we'll explore another interesting aspect of President Obama's announcement: the end of Secure Communities.

Sources: The Washington Post, "Obama acts on immigration, announcing decision to defer deportations of 4 million," David Nakamura, Nov. 20, 2014; The Chicago Sun-Times, " Obama's immigration executive order: Here are the details," Lynn Sweet, Nov. 20, 2014

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