By Netania and Raphael Moore
President Obama has issued an executive order that may provide relief to those brought as children to the United States illegally, and to those who came properly but whose papers have expired. Though this decision was announced recently, there is already much misconception about it. Let’s examine it a bit closer to see what it really means.
If you came illegally or overstayed your visa, you normally would be subject to deportation. Under the new law, however, Immigration and Customs Enforcement may “defer” action against you if you meet specific criteria. If approved, you will be allowed to stay and work in the United States for up to two years, subject to renewal.
Before you even consider applying, be sure you meet the basic criteria. These include meeting certain educational requirements; having arrived in the United States before age 16; and being at least 15 years old when applying, with some exceptions. You also must have been in the U.S. more or less continuously since June 15, 2007; you must have been here on June 15, 2012; you must not yet have turned 31; and you cannot have a significant criminal background. To receive work authorization, you also must show need.
So if you meet the criteria, should you apply? Understand that the ultimate decision of ICE is discretionary. Even if it looks like you qualify, there is no guarantee. Being granted deferred action does not give you a green card or citizenship, and it does not apply to the rest of your family. And there is no assurance the law won’t change, even after you are approved, should President Obama not be re-elected.
But it does give you the legal right to work and earn money without the worry of deportation, which is something you otherwise do not have.
There are also obvious concerns about making your immigration status known to immigration officials. Can they use the information to deport you? Although there are confidentiality provisions in place indicating that information you provide in your application is protected from disclosure, there are exceptions. And even if you are approved, at the end of the two-year period, in theory, you could be subject to deportation. But these rules largely prioritize people based on risk to the public, and their criminal background.
This new rule is not meant for everyone. This relief is likely best used for someone who arrived in the United States as a child, has no criminal record and poses no threats of any kind to the public or national security. It is best used by those who are already “low” on the enforcement priority of the government, and who simply want to be able to work, earn money and live without the immediate worry of deportation.
Nationwide, thousands of undocumented immigrants have concluded the benefits outweigh the risks. You should carefully weigh your own circumstances, and research the law or speak with a trusted professional before making your own decision.
— Raphael and Netania Moore practice law in downtown Davis. They may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org