10 Executive Actions To Immigration Reform

by Charles Busari
US immigration

Executive orders are instructions to officers and Agencies of the Executive Branch and this particular set of ‘Orders’ pertain to the Agency in charge of Immigration and border patrol; Namely the Department of Homeland Security, DHS.
The points outlined by the president in his speech on November 20, 2014  translate to 10 specific set of instructions known as Executive Action for the DHS as follows:
1. Executive Action: Strengthen Border Security
To be implemented as follows:
Employing the “Southern Border and Approaches Campaign strategy” to alter the ways in which resources are funneled to the border.
The Southern Border and Approaches Campaign strategy was developed to stem the spike in illegal migration through the southern Texas border. A large number of these immigrants were unaccompanied children and adults with children from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador.
The response was to form 3 joint task forces of various law enforcement agencies focusing on Southern Seas, Southern and West Coast land and the third focusing on Investigations to support the other two task forces. With objectives to reduce the terrorism risks to the nation, Combat transnational Criminal organizations and discourage illegal border activity and behavior. (You can read more about it here).
2. Executive Action: Revise Removal Priorities
The DHS will revise its removal priorities and enact a new department wide enforcement and removal policy with priorities as follows;

  • Priority 1 – national security threats, convicted felons, gang members, and illegal entrants apprehended at the border
  • Priority 2 – 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
  • Priority 3 – 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.
  • Greater transparency in the reporting of removal statistics

3. Executive Action: End Secure Communities and Replace it with New Priority Enforcement Program
Secure Communities  is a deportation program that relies on partnership between federal state and local law enforcement agencies.
Ordinarily the fingerprints of county and state arrestees are supplied to the FBI only, under Secure communities these fingerprints also go to ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) – if the fingerprint of that person matches that of an immigrant (whether legal or illegal), ICE is notified and depending on the case can decide to place an “ICE Hold” on the person which allows law enforcement to detain them up to 48 hours beyond their release date.
This practice became unpopular and highly controversial for a number of reasons and a number of local and state governments have refused to cooperate with the program.
The Priority Enforcement Program, as its name implies will still rely on partnerships between law enforcement agencies and the sharing of fingerprint data but will adhere to a set of priorities as listed in the Policies for the Apprehension, Detention and Removal of Undocumented Immigrants.
4. Executive Action: Personnel Reform For ICE Officers
New measures to bring ICE officers pay in line with other law enforcement personnel.

5. Executive Action: Expand Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Program
The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program created in 2012, is purely an administrative relief where the DHS may “defer” removal of an individual for a specified time period. Contrary to popular belief it is not an amnesty and it doesn’t even create a path to obtaining a Green card or citizenship. It is simply a way to be “Lawfully Present” in the United States for a set period of time. Under the revised version the criteria for qualification have been expanded as follows;

  • DACA provided that all immigrant children under the age of 16 who entered into the country as children and were not years 31 years old as of June 15 2012 were eligible for the relief. Under the new ‘Expanded’ version of the program the age cap is lifted, so a person no longer had to be under 31 years old as of June 15 2012. This means anyone who entered in as a child under 16 is now eligible to apply for the relief.
  • Extend DACA renewal and Work authorization to 3 years – Applicants were previously granted a 2 year deferment both for first time applicants with renewal applications receiving 2 year increments.
  • Adjust Date-of-Entry requirement to January 2010– Previously applicants had to have been in the United States prior to June 2007 to be eligible to the relief.

6. Executive Action: Extended Deferred Action to Parents of U.S Citizens and Lawful Permanent Residents
Similar to DACA, deferred action relief is now available to the following individuals who;

  • have a son or daughter who is a US citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident
  • have continually resided in the United States since before January 2010.
  • Are physically present in the United States on November 20 2014 and at the time they make their request for
  • Deferred action
  • Have no lawful status as of November 20
  • do not fall under the enforcement priorities listed in the priority section above

7. Executive Action: Expanded Provisional Waivers to Spouses and Children of Lawful Permanent Residents
Spouses and Children of US citizens and Lawful Permanent Residents, though are eligible to obtain immigrant Visas must leave the country to be interviewed at a US consulate overseas before they can get these visas. Trouble is that in some cases where individuals have overstayed their current immigrant visas they would be subject to a 3-10 year ban if they left the country. Also, while it is possible to apply for a waiver of this 3-10year ban they are still required depart the country with no guarantees of being successful in order to apply for the waiver.

  • A Provisional waiver of the 3-10 year ban was created In January 2013 – this made it possible for spouses and children of US citizens only to apply and get the waiver for the 3-10 ban before leaving the US for a consular interview. The new revision now makes it possible for spouses and children of Lawful Permanent Residents to be able to apply for the waiver before leaving the country. In both cases they would still be subjected to a successful consular interview before being allowed back into the country as a non-immigrant.
  • Also under the Waiver requirements applicants would have to be able to demonstrate “extreme hardship” in order to qualify but there is little guidance of what constitutes extreme Hardship. Under the ‘Expanded’ version guidelines will be made available as to what factors will be considered to demonstrate “Extreme Hardship”.

8. Executive Action: Revise Parole Rules
This order seeks to identify conditions in which the following would be paroled into the country;

  • Parole rules for Entrepreneurs,
  • Availability of Parole-In-Place and ‘Deferred Action’ for Spouses, parents and children of US citizens and Lawful Permanent Residents who seek to enlist in the US Armed Forces.
  • When anyone is given “Advance Parole” to leave the country they will not be considered to have departed.

9. Executive Action: Promote The Naturalization Process
To promote access to the Naturalization Process the DHS will do the following:

  • Implement a Credit Card payment process – Currently, applicants can only pay with Checks and Money order.
  • Consider a fee study for a partial fee waiver program – The current fee waiver of the full $680 cost of Naturalization is available if the applicant’s income is no greater than 150% of the federal Poverty Level (see here for guidelines. Proposed 50% waiver if income is greater than 150% but no greater than 200%.

10. Executive Action: Support High Skilled Business and Workers

Administrative directives to improve the process in the following areas:

  • Reforming Optional Practical Training (OPT) for foreign student its graduates of Universities. – Foreign national students under the F-1 visa can extend their visas for an additional 12 months to gain temporary employment in their relevant field of study. STEM (Science, technology, Engineering and Math) students are eligible for an additional 17 months.
    • New directive is to expand degree programs eligible for OPT
    • Extend the use of OPT for foreign STEM students and graduates
    • Ensure that OPT employment is consistent with US labor market protections to safeguard the interests of US workers in related fields
  • Modernizing the employment based Immigrant Visa system – by improving the system of determining when immigrant visas are available to applicants during the fiscal year. Visa Bulletins will be revised and made simpler. USCIS to revise current regulations so that long-standing Visas are valid even in cases when there is a change of job or employer.
  • Promoting research and Development in the United States – by issuing guidelines and directives to simplify the following
    • ‘National Interest waiver’ that allows applicants with advanced degrees to seek Green Cards without employer sponsorship provided their admission is in the National interest.
    • Grant Parole status to inventors, researchers and founders of small enterprises (on a case by case basis).
  • Greater consistency to the L-1B Visa program – This is applicable to multinational companies who want to transfer managerial and or executives who have “specialized knowledge” of the company’s products or processes to the United States. – Provide clear and consolidated guidelines of “Specialized Knowledge”.
  • Increasing working Portability – Currently workers waiting to adjust their status to obtain a green card can do so without jeopardizing their ability to seek lawful Permanent Residency as long as the job is in the “same or similar” occupational classification as their old job.
    • New directive to provide guidelines to employees and their employers as to what constitutes “Same or Similar” job class.
    • Guidelines should make it clear that a worker can accept a promotion to a supervisory position or transition to a related field of their endeavor.
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