On Thursday, November 20, 2014, President Obama announced that he will exercise his executive authority to remove the threat of deportation of those undocumented immigrants who have been in the United States for at least five years, have at least one U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident child, register, pass background checks, and pay their taxes.
While the details will be revealed in the coming days and weeks, it seems clear that the action the President is taking now is similar to the program of “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).” Like DACA applicants, applicants covered by the President’s executive action will be required to register and will be eligible for work authorization. It is expected that the President’s order will cover as many as 5 million or more undocumented immigrants.
The President also indicated that he will implement measures to make the permanent residency process easier and faster for highly-skilled, employment-based immigrants and entrepreneurs. He has directed the Department of Homeland Security and Department of State to develop a more modern system for administering the immigrant quota system which might allow applicants to file their “green card” applications while waiting for an available visa under the quota system. It is also expected that H-4 dependent spouses of certain H-1B workers will become eligible to apply for employment authorization as early as December or January.
In addition to addressing immigration benefits, the President indicated he will also take action to put more resources on the southern border.
He concluded by saying that these are all temporary measures and called on Congress to pass an immigration reform bill.