Last night, President Barack Obama announced his plans for immigration reform during a live televised address. Over the course of the coming days, we will bring you a more in-depth analysis of the president's immigration reforms. This post will serve as a summary of the president's speech and immigration reform plans.
The president's 15-minute speech and 33-page legal memo lay out his immigration reform by way of executive action. Included in the announcement was the administration's justification for taking such action, including citing a number of past presidents who have taken similar steps. “The actions I'm taking are not only lawful,” Obama said,”they're the kinds of actions taken by every single Republican president and every Democratic president for the past half century.”
The greatest changes to take place will be an expansion of the deferred action program. Previously, undocumented children brought into the U.S., the so-called DREAMers, were granted deferred deportation status under DACA. Now, the DACA policy will be expanded to eliminate the age cap (previously only for those born after 1981), and extend the cutoff date of when they entered the U.S. to January 1, 2010.
The broadest deferred action changes will be to extend coverage to the parents of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents. This could affect millions of people across the country. Deferred status will be extended so long as they have lived in the U.S. for at least five (5) years, and can provide evidence that their child was born in the U.S. Despite some speculation, deferred action will not presently be extended to the parents of DREAMers.
The temporary deferral is not a permanent path to citizenship, but is intended to defer deportation for millions of immigrants with ties to the U.S. Applicants will be required to pass a background check, and pay taxes. In exchange, they may be granted work authorization and relief from deportation fears
Policy changes will include shifting immigration enforcement to target violent and serious criminals for deportation. The “high priority” deportation targets will include felons, gang members, and suspected terrorists. While those who have committed more minor crimes may not be eligible for deportation protection, the administration has indicated they will not be targeted for removal.
The Secure Communities program will also be changing. Previously, the program called for local law enforcement to detain undocumented immigrants and notify immigration officials. This program has already faced a backlash as more and more cities and municipalities were willfully ignoring the requirement. Under the new program, immigration authorities will still have to be notified, but people will not be detained for any additional time.
The president also announced additional resources for border security, and an improved immigration policy towards highly-skilled immigrant workers, graduates, and entrepreneurs to stay in the country, and contribute to the economy.
In anticipation of the expected backlash to the announcement, President Obama offered a suggestion to Republican lawmakers. “To those members of Congress who question my authority to make our immigration system work better, or question the wisdom of me acting where Congress has failed, I have one answer: pass a bill.”