On November 20, 2014, President Obama announced that he would use his Executive powers to pass a package of immigration reforms that would have potentially help approximately 4 million people. Nearly two years later, the U.S. Supreme Court issued the final “no” to the implementation of those executive actions. The Court, in a one page opinion, agreed with a lower court’s ruling, and effectively kept millions of undocumented individuals in the U.S. without any method of obtaining a work authorization and remaining in the U.S. without any threat of deportation. This decision was a significant setback for the White House, as well as all those that would have been affected.
If you recall, among the reforms he announced was to increase border security, implement a deferred action program for certain individuals, and make improvements to the adjudication of business and family-based applications including expanding the reach of the provisional waiver, improving the visa application process, and promoting citizenship. Additionally, one of the major and most controversial actions was to implement the Deferred Action of Parents of Americans (DAPA) program, which would have given millions of undocumented aliens work authorizations. Also, it would have expanded the already existing Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. All these proposals would have arguably improved the immigration system and help many of those that are already living in the U.S. without proper documentation.
However, the changes that the Obama administration implemented prior to Obama’s Executive Action on Immigration announcement, are still in effect. For example, those that qualified for DACA before, still are eligible, and there is no indication that these benefits will be retracted. Further, the provisional waiver program is still in effect, which allows immediate relatives of U.S. citizens to apply for the unlawful presence waiver in the U.S. prior to leaving the U.S. to obtain their immigrant visas. This program reduces the anxiety and uncertainty behind the waiver process, as well as the time separated between the applicant and their U.S. citizen or LPR family in the U.S. Moreover, the administration’s enforcement priorities remain the same. Enforcement priorities will remain for those who have a criminal record, or a negative history with immigration authorities.
Although the recent news has been discouraging, we need to take this time to unite to urge Congress to take action on immigration. Also, those that are undocumented need to explore other methods that may be available to them.