A blog about U.S. immigration matters by Paul Szeto, a former INS attorney and an experienced immigration attorney and counsel. Contact Info: 732-632-9888, http://www.1visa1.com/ (All information is not legal advice and is subject to change without prior notice.)

Monday, June 18, 2012

Deferred Action program provides temporary relief to Dreamers.


On June 16, 2012, President Obama and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced that the executive branch of the government is going to exercise its prosecutorial discretion not to enforce the immigration laws against certain group of young people who were brought to this country as children and have treated the U.S. as their home country.  According to DHS, since these individuals did not intent to violate the immigration laws, the government will review their cases and consider granting Deferred Action to allow them to stay in the U.S. temporarily.  


Deferred Action is an act of administrative choice to give some cases lower enforcement priority than the others.  Under the newly announced Deferred Action program, eligible individuals will be allowed to receive employment authorization cards (EAD) for two years with possible renewals.

In order to be eligible for new Deferred Action program, an individual must meet the following requirements:

  • came to the United States under the age of sixteen;
  • has continuously resided in the United States for at least five years before June 15, 2012;
  • is present in the United States on June 15, 2012;
  • is currently in school, has graduated from high school, has obtained a general education development certificate, or is an honorably discharged veteran of the Coast Guard or Armed Forces of the United States;
  • has not been convicted of a felony offense, a significant misdemeanor offense, multiple misdemeanor offenses, or otherwise poses a threat to national security or public safety; and
  • is 30 years old or younger.  
An individual must wait until they are at least fifteen years old in order to submit an application under the Deferred Action program.  Each application will be reviewed on case-by-case basis.

According to DHS, the immigration laws should not be enforced blindly without consideration of the individual circumstances of each case.  With regard to the group of people who came to the U.S. as minors, deporting them to another country does not make sense as they may not have lived there or even speak the language of that country.   DHS acknowledges that many of these young people may have already contributed to our country through in many different ways.  Therefore prosecutorial discretion is well justified here.

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will handle the cases of individuals who are not in deportation proceedings.  The U.S. Immigration and Customs and Enforcement (ICE) will review the pending cases in deportation proceedings.  Both agencies have 60 days to begin implementing the program. For individuals who have been granted Deferred Action by either ICE or USCIS, they will be eligible for employment authorization for two years.  The EADs are renewable every two years.


The new program provides similar benefits to those proposed by the Dream Act, a proposal that was not passed by Congress.  It is important to know that the Deferred Action program is not permanent and does NOT confer permanent resident status (green card) or citizenship.  It certainly is NOT an amnesty program.  It is merely part of the DHS’s ongoing efforts to prioritize its immigration cases for prosecution.  The new Deferred Action program can be changed or cancelled at any time.  For example, if a new president is elected in November, he could decide to change or cancel this Deferred Action program.

It is also important to note that the government is not yet taking requests for Deferred Action as of now.  Interested individuals must pay attention to updates from the government and our blog to confirm when they can start submitting applications.


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