On June 15, 2012, by Executive Order, President Barack Obama announced that the Department of Homeland Security would begin placing selected young people whose achievements and/or ties to the United States qualified them in a form of relief from removal called “deferred action”. Subsequently referred to as the “Dream Act”, the President’s announcement is law by executive order, rather than a law passed by Congress, and remains effective until rescinded by another executive order or by Congressional legislation.
Deferred action essentially provides a reprieve from removal to individuals who meet the stipulated guidelines. Qualifying under this Executive Order are those immigrants illegally present in the U.S. who are:
– Currently 30 years or younger;
– Have been in the U.S. for at least 5 years;
– Arrived before they turned 16 years old; and
– Graduated from a U.S. high school or earned a GED or are currently in school and don’t have a criminal record
Deferred action is not a lawful status in the United States and does not secure an individual’s long-term presence in the United States. It simply means that the government will not initiate removal proceedings against an individual who meets the above criteria. Deferred action thus grants these individuals:
– The right to remain in the United States with the approval of the government (so long as this executive order remains in place); and
– The right to apply for and to renew work permits every 2 years upon showing “economic necessity”;
Deferred action is a period of stay authorized by the Attorney General and an individual accrues no “unlawful presence” during this time period, thus shielding them at least temporarily from the harsh provisions of INA § 212(a)(9)(B).
Deferred Action can provide relief to individuals who have not yet been placed in removal proceedings, but it can also provide relief to individuals currently in removal proceedings or those to whom a final order of removal has been issued.
It is estimated that more than a million undocumented immigrants across the United States will benefit under these regulations. While final guidance is forthcoming, requests for deferred action are likely to be made to United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) in some cases and to ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) in other cases.
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