On November 20, 2014, President Obama announced a series of executive actions to crack down on illegal immigration at the border, prioritize deporting felons not families, and require certain undocumented immigrants to pass a criminal background check and pay taxes in order to temporarily stay in the U.S. without fear of deportation.
However, on February 16, 2015, U.S. District Court Judge Andrew Hanen in Texas issued a ruling that has led to the temporary suspension of President Obama’s recent executive actions on immigration. The ruling prevents the Obama administration from implementing the proposed expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) until the constitutionality of the executive actions can be determined.
Due to the federal court order, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will not begin accepting requests for the expansion of DACA on February 18 as originally planned. The court’s temporary injunction, issued February 16, does not affect the existing DACA. Individuals may continue to come forward and request an initial grant of DACA or renewal of DACA under the guidelines established in 2012.
Brief Background on DACA and DAPA
On November 20, 2014, President Obama instructed the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to cease further deportation of certain undocumented parents of U.S. citizens and parents of lawful permanent residents under the DAPA program. The president also expanded the existing DACA program for youth who were brought to the United States as children. Under DAPA and DACA, qualifying children and parents would be granted “deferred action”, which would be temporary permission to remain in the United States without risk of deportation as well as work authorization where applicable.
U.S. District Court Decision and Further Legal Action
The temporary injunction issued by Judge Hanen is the result of a lawsuit brought by 26 U.S. States seeking to bar the Obama administration from implementing the executive actions. In the suit, the states contend that implementation of DAPA and the expanded DACA will put undue hardships on the states. In issuing his order for a temporary injunction, Judge Hanen stated that the Obama administration had overreached its authority with the executive actions, thus making them unconstitutional.
In response to the temporary injunction, the federal government filed a motion to prevent the execution of the temporary injunction; however, Judge Hanen has indicated that he is not intending to make a quick decision on the case. It is likely that the next stop will be a federal court of appeals to determine whether the executive actions can move forward. The federal government contends that the executive actions are legal and within the constitutional authority of the president.
What Happens Next?
While the federal government, including the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, which oversees immigration in the United States, has stated they flatly opposed Judge Hanen’s decision, they nonetheless are required to follow it. For this reason, USCIS is not accepting applications for the expanded DACA and new DAPA programs and will not do so until a court orders the lifting of the injunction. It is possible that the Obama administration’s executive actions could be suspended for a considerable amount of time as the dispute runs through the courts.
In the meantime, you may sign up for news updates from USCIS on these topics as the laws continue to change. If you believe you may be eligible for one of the initiatives listed above, you can prepare by gathering documents that establish factors such as your:
• Identity; • Relationship to a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident, if necessary; and • Continuous residence in the United States over the last five years or more.
Beware Immigration Scams!
Given the complexity of the expanded DACA and new DAPA programs, and the uncertainty surrounding the recent legal actions, it is important to be aware of potential scams. DO NOT offer money or personal information to anyone who claims they can prepare and submit an application under the expanded DACA or new DAPA programs. As stated above, USCIS is not accepting applications under these programs and there is no time-frame as to when or if they will begin taking applications. Furthermore, we strongly urge people not to pay for services that promise to “get your application ready” in expectation of the eventual execution of the executive action programs. Given the legal issues being raised, there is a possibility that any programs that do go into effect will be different than the existing programs. For this reason, there is no way to know for sure what documentation and procedures will be required.
We recommend that anyone interested in the expanded DACA or new DAPA programs follow the progress of the legal actions and only prepare applications when USCIS has given firm instruction to do so.
A Note on the Existing DACA Program
It should be noted that the temporary injunction issued by Judge Hanen does not apply to the existing DACA program that was created in 2012. Under this program, USCIS is, and will continue to accept, applications and adjudicate new and renewal cases under this program. You may qualify for the existing DACA program if you:
1. Were under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012; 2. Came to the United States before reaching your 16th birthday; 3. Have continuously resided in the United States since June 15, 2007, up to the present time; 4. Were physically present in the United States on June 15, 2012, and at the time of making your request for consideration of deferred action with USCIS; 5. Had no lawful status on June 15, 2012; 6. Are currently in school, have graduated or obtained a certificate of completion from high school, have obtained a general education development (GED) certificate, or are an honorably discharged veteran of the Coast Guard or Armed Forces of the United States; and 7. Have not been convicted of a felony, significant misdemeanor, or three or more other misdemeanors, and do not otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety.
If you believe that you or a loved one qualifies for the existing DACA program, or if you have other immigration questions, please contact The Grady Firm at (949) 798-6298, or fill out a Contact Request Form.