News & Media


Explanation of President Obama’s Executive Action on Immigration

Hi. My name is Jeff Joseph and I’m the senior partner of Joseph Immigration Law Firm. This is the first of a series of videos that we will be putting out to the public with information about Obama’s executive announcements on Immigration Reform, which he announced last night, November 20, 2014. The first thing that I want to talk about is the authority for President Obama to make these changes to the immigration law. Let’s be clear that anything that requires a legislative change must go through Congress but that’s not what we’re talking about here. What we’re talking about here is the President as the Chief Executive Officer of our country and in such role, being in charge of immigration customs enforcement and customs and border patrol, making a series of priority decisions about whom he will enforce the law against. And what that means is placing priority on terrorists, national security threats, felons, people with multiple misdemeanors, and recent entrance. And placing those as a higher priority for enforcement and deportation over individuals who enter the country long ago, have family connections here and are working and paying their taxes.

So, deferred action is something that presidents have exercised throughout history, throughout the immigration laws, to place priorities on those against whom we want to seek deportation. So, that’s what we’re talking about here. The other thing that I want to point out is just like there’s a lot of benefits in the proposal that Obama announced last night, there are also strengthened enforcement measures. There is increased resources placed at the border. There’s increased resources towards felons in the country, people with multiple misdemeanors and serious crimes, and recent entrance. People who entered the country after January 1st, 2014. So, if you think about it such that you are taking five million people, which is the estimate, of people who are here working, paying their taxes, that leaves seven million against whom… will not qualify for this program and against whom the government can smartly exercise their priority resources. The second thing I want to say is that this is not unprecedented. Other presidents for the past 50 years have made similar exercises of enforcement authority, starting with F.D.R., who had over 3500 executive actions during his presidency.

Both George Bush Senior and George Bush Junior made numerous executive actions, including enforced voluntary departure, family unity program, deferred enforced departure, many other executive actions that were very similar to what President Obama is doing here. So, there’s clear precedent for a president to exercise this type of enforcement priority and executive action. If you think about it, any person who’s involved in law enforcement has to exercise prosecutorial discretion on a daily basis, from the president to governors to district attorneys in our courts who enter into plea agreements everyday to police officers on the street. I know that I’ve personally talked myself out of many speeding tickets and that is an exercise of prosecutorial discretion as well. Whether the police officer chooses to give me a ticket or not is, frankly, an exercise of prosecutorial discretion. So, this is something that happens all the time. With that in mind, I’d like to next turn to the fact that just like this is a benefit program and there’s a lot of extension of benefits, there are also increased enforcement measures in these announcements. Obama has specifically stated that he’s going to put additional resources on the border, both technological resources and boots on the ground.

And he’s also stated that if you are a felon or have significant misdemeanors or you are a person who entered the country after January 1st, 2014, what he’s calling a recent entrant, then you’re a priority for enforcement. And the government will use its resources to go after you. So, just like this program provides benefits for low level priorities, it also provides increased resources for those whom the government considers high level priorities. With that in mind, let’s turn to some of the specific proposals that Obama is making. Let me be clear that we don’t have the details of these proposals and Obama has stated that we will not have those details for some time because he wants to give Congress the opportunity to pass a comprehensive immigration reform bill as opposed to these sort of executive measures. And he has stated that if they pass a bill, he will sign it. So, all that we have is a skeleton of a what the proposals will look like. We don’t have the details and you should stay tuned to our newsletter, our website, and these videos for further more information in the days to come. So, here’s what we know. The first thing is that Obama is extending deferred action to parents of U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents who have been in the United States for five years, have been paying their taxes, and do no have a criminal history.

So, deferred action, to be clear, is not lawful status in the country, nor is it a pathway to citizenship or permanent residence. Essentially, what it is is an agreement between the individual and the government, whereby the individual comes out of the shadows, subjects him or herself to security background checks, proves eligibility for the status. And in exchange for doing that, the government agrees to defer deportation against them, defer taking affirmative action against them. And they give them a work authorization card for a two-year period. After two years, they have to go through the same sort of strenuous background checks again. Prove that they are still abiding by the law, and then deferred action can be extended. But, deferred action can also be taken away. If there’s a change in administration, if there’s a change in the law, if Congress overrules Obama through legislation on this, it can be taken away. So, deferred action is an enforcement priority. It’s an agreement with the government but it’s not permanent status within the country. The second thing he’s doing is to expand the program he put in place in 2012 for children arrivals, what they call DACA or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. Under the 2012 program, you had to show that you were between the ages of 16 and 31 at the time you filed the application.

The program still requires that you enter as a child before the age of 16 but it eliminates the 31-year-old age cap. So, regardless of the age you are now, if you entered as a child, don’t have a significant criminal history, no felonies or significant misdemeanors, can prove that you’re on your way through education of high school or college or that you’ve received a diploma in high school or college, you can apply for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. The next thing is, and the details of this are very unclear, but there are some job creation mechanisms within the proposals that would allow for entrepreneurs to either be paroled into the United States to start businesses here or to work in fields that are in the national interest, or even if they’re here undocumented, potentially to get parole in place in the United States to avoid having to leave the country in order to get their visas. There are also provisions in the bill, again, not a lot of details here, for increasing access to university affiliated businesses to key talent. People’s who’s work is high level research, science, technology, engineering and math, and work that is in the national interest. The next provision is to expand the use of waivers of unlawful presence to allow the spouses and children of lawful permanent residents to apply for waivers within the country. Under procedures now, if you’re the spouse or child of a permanent resident, you have to leave the country in order to get your green card and the minute you cross the border, you trigger a ten year bar to re-entry.

You can seek a waiver of that bar outside the country but you’re separated from your family for six to 18 months while you seek the waiver. Under this proposal, they would be able to seek the waiver from within the United States and remain with their family while the waiver’s being adjudicated. They’d still have to leave the country to go to the consulate for the interview but they would just go back for the interview and medical exam and then come right back into the United States. Finally, there’s some indication that the extreme hardship definition for getting these waivers will be expanded and that there will be a presumption of hardship based on family separation if the only ground that you’re seeking to waive is for unlawful presence in the country. Next thing that we see is an increased use of parole in place for families of individuals who are trying to enlist in the military. So, right now, you can get parole in place if you’re the family member of an active duty or discharged military member. This would expand it to individuals who are seeking to enter the military when it’s been paroled to them. The next procedure that we see changing is the procedure for adjustment of status to allow individuals who are caught in immigration quota backlogs to basically apply for registration of their applications and begin the final step of their process now.

This is interesting because it would allow individuals who are in the backlog, potentially to get work authorization while they’re waiting for their visas to become current. And then, as I stated, there is increased enforcement of mechanisms, so a new border security campaign in plan, increased enforcement against felons, significant misdemeanors, including DUIs. And this is an important point is that the government seems to be placing increased priority emphasis on DUIs as a significant misdemeanor. So, if you’re an individual who has a DUI, it’s definitely recommended that you seek council before seeking any of these benefits. We will know more information in the days to come and I encourage you to subscribe to our newsletter at mail, M-A-I-L, I also encourage you to check out our website because we will be having increased information on the website as we learn more details about this program. Most importantly, it’s really important that you seek an immigration attorney and have a consultation with an immigration attorney. Some of these things may sound very simple and you may qualify for them but one of the things that I think is most important about these different provisions is the way that they work together.

So, you may be working with an attorney to get deferred action as an immediate benefit. But if we are able to also get you a waiver of unlawful presence and extreme hardship from within the country, that’s more of a long term solution that we may be able to seek on your behalf. So, how these play together to get you both a short term benefit and a long term benefit is really why you need to seek an immigration attorney. And we are all available here. We have three offices in Denver, Colorado Springs, and Edwards to help you. We have attorneys that speak both English and Spanish and French. And we are here to help you maneuver these different announcements and find a way to get your status as quickly, as safely, and as efficiently as possible. So, please contact our office. We can be reached at 303-297-9171, again, 303-297-9171 or by email at Thank you very much. Bye bye.