Understanding Immigration Reform: What President Obama’s Executive Action Means for Immigrants

Will President Obama’s immigration policies remain in effect? House Republicans recently voted to undo his policies. This will be a fight that will no doubt carry on for months or even years. If Obama’s reforms are fully implemented, what will that mean for immigrants?

Obama’s executive action has two key elements. The first would grant a legal reprieve to the parents of citizens or green card holders who have resided in the US for at least five years. Many of these people would also be eligible to get work permits. The second would permit immigrants who arrived in the US as children to apply for a deportation deferral. All people eligible for these programs would need to reapply every three years.

The executive action would also include a program making it easier for people to obtain visas if they intend to invest in the US or if they plan to pursue a degree in math, science, technology, or engineering in the US. Border security would be tightened up and the procedures for immigrant detention would be modified.

There are some aspects of immigration that many people would like to see reformed, but that are not addressed by Obama’s executive action. It does not provide protection for the parents of immigrants who participated in the DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) program. It does not reform the visas for migrant farmworkers or expand the H-1B visa program.

It’s estimated that 4 million undocumented immigrants would benefit from the reforms. There are approximately 3.5 million parents of US citizens who have resided in the US for five years or more. There are an additional 180,000 parents of green card holders. Almost 300,000 people could benefit from reforms to DACA. The reforms would still leave over 6 million undocumented immigrants without protection.

It’s uncertain what the future of these reforms will be, but one thing that is certain is that the fight is going to be long and hard. If you have questions about the potential effects of this immigration reform, we would be glad to assist. Please contact us today to learn more!


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