Summary of Obama’s Executive Action Initiatives



On November 20, 2014, the President announced a series of Executive actions that will be implemented by the administrative agencies to optimize the immigration system in the U.S. The President has not given up on advocating for the comprehensive immigration reform and intended for these executive actions to be the beginning of the change in our broken immigration system. The President’s announcement focused on the following key initiatives:

– Strengthen border security and revise removal priorities.

Per the initiative, DHS will develop effective border security strategies focusing especially on southern land and maritime borders and the West Coast preventing illegal immigration.

DHS will also implement a new department-wide enforcement and removal policy that places

  1. top priority on national security threats, convicted felons, gang members, and illegal entrants apprehended at the border;
  2. the second-tier priority on those convicted of significant or multiple misdemeanors and those who are not apprehended at the border, but who entered or reentered this country unlawfully after January 1, 2014;
  3. and the third priority on those who are non-criminals but who have failed to abide by a final order of removal issued on or after January 1, 2014.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Under this revised policy, those who entered illegally prior to January 1, 2014, who never disobeyed a prior order of removal, and were never convicted of a serious offense, will not be priorities for removal.  This policy also provides clear guidance on the exercise of prosecutorial discretion. The Memorandum on removal priorities entitled “Policies for the Apprehension, Detention and Removal of Undocumented Immigrants” has already been issued and will come into effect on January 5, 2015. It has replaced all prior memoranda on removal priorities. Follow our blog for updates on how you can request the agency to exercise prosecutorial discretion in your case if you do not fall in one of the agency’s removal priorities.

– Expand Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program to encompass a broader class of individuals, regardless of age, and those who have been continuously present in the U.S. since January 1, 2010. Under the new program, the DACA relief will last for three years rather than two. Currently, only those individuals who were under 31 years of age as of June 15, 2012 and who entered the U.S. prior to June 15, 2007 qualify for DACA.

– Grant Deferred Action to Parents of U.S. Citizens and Lawful Permanent Residents.

DHS will extend eligibility for deferred action to individuals who

  1. Are not removal priorities under the new policy
  2. Have been in the country at least 5 years
  3. Have children who on the date of the President’s announcement are U.S. citizens or LPR;
  4. Individuals granted Deferred Action will be able to apply for work authorization.                                                                                                          

I-601A Provisional Waiver Expansion.

The waiver will be expanded to include spouses and sons and daughters of LPRs and sons and daughters of US citizens. Currently, only spouses and minor children of US citizens are allowed to apply to obtain a provisional waiver. Under the new initiative, the term “extreme hardship” will also be clarified and expanded.

– Business Immigration Changes.

Under the initiatives, DHS will identify the conditions under which talented foreign entrepreneurs, inventors, researchers, founders of startups may be paroled into the U.S. if their entry is determined to be in significant public economic benefit. L-1B guidance will be released, the H-4 EAD regulation will be finalized, and the length of time permitted on OPT for STEM graduates will be expanded. PERM system will also be modernized.

– Visa backlog modernization.

Under the initiative, the agencies will make the necessary changes to optimize the use of visa numbers available under law and to recapture unused visas. Those who are caught in visa backlogs with approved employment-based petitions will be eligible to file for adjustment of status.

– Parole-in-place will be expanded to spouses, parents, and children of US citizens or LPR who seek to enlist in the U.S. Armed Forces.

Follow our blog and website for updates on implementation of each of those initiatives.