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Everything You Need To Know About Obama’s 2014 Executive Action on Immigration

Everything You Need To Know About Obama’s Executive Action On Immigration

President Barack Obama SpeechOn November 20th, 2014, President Barack Obama addressed the nation (view the full video here), laying out plans for the executive action he’s taking in an effort to “fix” the U.S. immigration system. “Our immigration system is broken, and everybody knows it,” were the words that marked the beginning of a 15-minute speech by President Obama outlining the problems with the current immigration system and his proposed fixes.

Wites & Kapetan and our immigration attorneys have been getting a lot of questions regarding the President’s speech and what it means. For example: What exactly is an executive action? What issues is the President planning to tackle? What solutions has the President proposed? Who will the action affect and how? Will it help you, or hinder you? Wites & Kapetan has put together this page as a way to answer all of these questions and more. For more information about this or to ask questions specific to your case, please call us at 954-570-8989  or contact us here. 

What Exactly is an Executive Action?

Many news sources reporting on the matter following the Presidents speech mistakenly reported the policy proposals as an Executive Order. It’s important to note that it was an Executive Action, not an Executive Order. Before exploring the Presidents executive action in greater depth, it’s important to understand that the two terms (“Executive Order” and “Executive Action”) differ greatly and should not be used interchangeably.

Here are the two terms explained:

Executive Order: A legally binding order issued by the President of the United States of America to a Federal Administrative Agency. An Executive Order is used to direct said Federal Agency (or Agencies) in the execution of already-established laws or policies that have previously been passed by Congress.

Executive Action: An informal proposal by the President of the United States of America calling on Congress and/or his Administration to take a particular action. Executive Actions typically hold no legal weight and unlike Executive Orders, they are not legally binding or published on the Federal Register.

It was the latter (Executive Action) that President Obama issued regarding the U.S. Immigration System on November 20th, 2014. It was NOT an Executive Order and therefore, it is NOT a legally binding order of any kind. Perhaps the best way to think of an Executive Action is as nothing more than “a wish list of policies the President would like to see enacted”, as defined by USPolitics.about.com.

USPolitics.about.com also states that executive actions do not carry any legal weight and can be invalidated by the courts or undone by legislation passed by Congress. This means that although the Presidents executive action will come into effect following his November 20th speech, it could be overruled by the courts or reversed by legislation passed by Congress in the future.

What are the Current Issues with the U.S. Immigration System?

According to estimates obtained by the Pew Hispanic Center in 2005, there is estimated to be about 11.5 – 12 million undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. These immigrants do not pay U.S. taxes and therefore, do not contribute to the U.S. economy to the same extent as law-abiding American citizens. These immigrants also create unfair competition in the marketplace, as many are willing to accept lower than average wages.

For businesses, this presents a huge problem, as competitors are able to gain competitive advantage by employing undocumented workers at a lower cost than the U.S. National Minimum Wage. This means that they are able to provide products and services at lower rates, often forcing above-the-board businesses employing legal workers out of business. President Obama described this as “reaping the rewards of living in America, without taking on the responsibilities of living in America” and explained how all of us take offense to those living this way.  

However, he also explained that any undocumented immigrants who are desperate to embrace such responsibilities see no other option but to “remain in the shadows or risk their families being torn apart”, due to deportation. The President also mentioned that the number of people trying to cross the U.S. border illegally is at its lowest level since the 1970’s.

What Solutions Did the Executive Action Put Forward?

The President put forward a number of initiatives in the executive action including the following:

1)  Strengthen Border Security
2)  Revise Removal Priorities
3)  Expand Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Program
4)  Expand Deferred Action to Parents of U.S. Citizens and Lawful Permanent Residents
5)  Support High-Skilled Business and Workers

Here’s an overview of each of these initiatives, who it helps (and doesn’t help) and the qualifications for eligibility:

Strengthen Border Security

Despite the number of people trying to enter the U.S. illegally being at it’s lowest level since the 1970’s, illegal immigration is still a big problem.President Obama’s executive action aims to “crack down on illegal immigration at the border” by doing the following:

– Deploying more resources to the border in order to strengthen enforcement (20,000 more border control agents)
– Focussing efforts on deporting undocumented immigrants who recently crossed the border


Who it helps (and doesn’t help):

It will help current U.S. citizens by decreasing undocumented immigration and therefore, the negative effects caused by undocumented immigration (e.g. economic effects). It will have a negative effect for immigrants trying to enter the U.S. illegally via its borders.

Revise Removal Priorities

The new enforcement and removal policy will prioritize national security threats, convicted felons, gang members and illegal entrants who are apprehended at the border, according to the DHS. There will be a second-tier priority on those convicted of “significant or multiple misdemeanors, those who are “not apprehended at the border, but who have entered or re-entered the U.S. unlawfully after January 1st , 2014”. A third-tier priority will encompass “those who are non-criminals but who have failed to abide by a final order of removal issued on or after January 1st, 2014.

Who it helps (and doesn’t help):

It helps those who entered the U.S. illegally prior to January 1, 2014, who never disobeyed a prior order of removal, and were never convicted of a serious offense, as these people will NOT be priorities for removal/deportation. It doesn’t help anyone who happens to fall into one of the three tiers mentioned above.

Expand Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Program

DACA eligibility was previously limited to “those who were under 31 years of age on June 15, 2012, who entered the U.S. before June 15, 2007, and who were under 16 years old when they entered”. DACA eligibility will be expended following President Obama’s executive action to “encompass a broader class of citizen”.

Who it helps (and doesn’t help):

It helps undocumented immigrants who were under the age of 16 when they entered the U.S, who also entered the country after January 1st 2010 and also weren’t previously eligible for DACA.

Note: The granted relief (which includes work authorization) will now last for three years following the executive action, rather than the two years prior to the executive action.

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

Eligibility for deferred action will be extended following the Presidents executive action to include hundreds and thousands more individuals.

This is part of the Presidents plan to reduce the fear of deportation and to help more undocumented immigrants face up to their responsibilities as a U.S. citizen. Any individuals eligible for deferred action under the new guidelines that also receives work authorization will pay taxes and contribute to the economy.

Who it helps (and doesn’t help):

Any undocumented immigrants who meet ALL of the following criteria:
– Those who are NOT removal priorities (defined the “Revise Removal Priorities” section above)
– Those who have been living in the U.S. for a minimum of 5 years
– Those who have children who are U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents (by the date of 20th November, 2014)
– Those who do not present any other factors that would make a grant of deferred action inappropriate (defined on a case-by-case basis)
– Those who pass background checks with relevant national security and criminal databases (including DHS and FBI)
* It doesn’t help anyone who happens to fall outside these criteria.

Support High-Skilled Business and Workers

President Obama mentioned that one problem with the current immigration policy is that it hinders highly skilled foreign-born workers from entering the U.S. and entering employment in U.S. businesses. This is primarily due to long waits for green cards, as defined by the DHS. The executive action aims to make the system more flexible by making “administrative changes” and “amending current regulations”.

 Who it helps (and doesn’t help):

It helps both U.S. businesses seeking highly skilled workers and also, foreign-born highly skilled workers seeking to live and work in the U.S and/or students looking for on-the-job training.

It won’t help foreign-born workers seeking to live and work in the U.S. who are not classed as “highly skilled”.

Get Started Today For Free!

Wites & Kapetan and our team of immigration lawyers have been working around the clock to prepare for the launch of Obama’s executive action on immigration. Once enacted the window to apply could be short if congress moves to try to block it or the program is blocked by lawsuits in the court system, similar to what we saw with gay marriage in some states.  

 We have put together a FREE, no obligation, program where we will help you now, without charge, to collect and verify all your information paperwork. Once the government releases more information about Obama’s executive order goes into effect, and we determine the amount of attorney’s fees to charge for our services, we will let you know the amount of our fees.  If you choose to hire us, we will proceed with your application. In other words, you only pay us if you choose to hire us to represent you in the immigration process.  So, there is no risk to you.

 Through our no risk, FREE program, we will be better prepared to submit your application once the executive order is enacted and the government starts accepting applications.  This should result in you obtaining legal status as quickly as possible.

 Please visit our page about our FREE program for Obama’s Executive Action by clicking here.

Where to Find More Information

More information on the Presidents recent executive action can be found on the following websites:

[PHOTO CREDIT: The U.S. Army (CC).]