Deferred Action Process Announced by Secretary Napolitano, Effective June 15, 2012
Janet Napolitano, U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security, formally announced the Government’s Deferred Action Process (hereinafter “the plan"), which is to take effect immediately.
What is deferred action?
Deferred action means that the Government has chosen not to pursue your case now even though you are deportable under the law. It should be noted that deferred action does not establish a path to legalization nor does it allow an individual to petition for relatives to get any form of legal status. Rather, the plan is said to allow eligible young people who were brought to the United States, and do not pose a risk to national security or public safety, as well as satisfy other key criteria, to receive relief from entering removal proceedings. Those individuals that demonstrate that they meet the criteria will be eligible to receive deferred action for a period of two years, and will be eligible to apply for work authorization.
Dream Act vs. Deferred Action
The Dream Act is a bill that was first proposed in 2001 and was never passed by Congress. If passed, the DREAM Act would allow young immigrants entering the United States as children a pathway to obtaining their green cards and eventually citizenship. In contrast, deferred action is not a law and will not create a pathway to citizenship for those who are deemed eligible. Recent polls suggest that most of the people who would be eligible under the DREAM Act are eligible for deferred action.
What does this mean for immigration in America?
The deferred action plan serves as a significant victory for those advocating change in today’s immigration laws. Secretary Napolitano states, “Our nation's immigration laws must be enforced in a firm and sensible manner. But they are not designed to be blindly enforced without consideration given to the individual circumstances of each case. Nor are they designed to remove productive young people to countries where they may not have lived or even speak the language. Discretion, which is used in so many other areas, is especially justified here." The deferred action plan is engineered to help address the many glaring flaws in America’s immigration laws.
Despite these successful changes, the Secretary has made it clear that the DHS will continue to focus its enforcement resources on the removal of individuals deemed to be a risk to national security or public safety. This objective will include immigrants convicted of crimes, violent crimes, felons, and repeat immigration law offenders. The deferred action plan will help improve the Department of National Security’s ability to focus on these objectives.
Qualifications for deferred action
Under the new plan, individuals who demonstrate that they meet the following criteria will be eligible for deferred action:
Arrived to the United States under the age of 16;
Continuously resided in the United States for a least five years preceding the date of this memorandum and are present in the United States on the date of this memorandum;
Individuals are currently in school, have graduated from high school, have obtained a general education development certificate, or are honorably discharged veterans of the Coast Guard or Armed Forces of the United States;
Have not been convicted of a felony offense, a significant misdemeanor offense, multiple misdemeanor offenses, or otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety;
Are not above the age of 30
Individuals must also complete a background check and, for those individuals who make a request to USCIS and are not subject to a final order of removal, must be 15 years old or older.
Each individual must demonstrate through proper documentation that they satisfy these criteria, in order to qualify for deferred action. Individuals will not be eligible if they are not currently in the United States and cannot prove that they have been physically present in the United States for a period of not less than five years immediately preceding June 15, 2012. As of July 9, 2012, many ambiguities remain in regards to the June 15th deadline. A commonly asked question among the public, is whether the June 15th deadline includes the entire 24 hour timeframe, and if so, which time zone would apply. This issue will likely be resolved over the coming months.
Duration of deferred action
Grants of deferred action will be issued incrementally. The duration will be for two years. At the expiration of the two year period, the grant of deferred action can be renewed, pending a review of the individual case.
We are waiting for more information and guidance from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to find out what procedure will be in place in order to apply for this new benefit.
Contact our office at 407-346-9913 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out if you, a family member or friend is eligible to apply for this new benefit or to get updates on this process.