If you're one of the millions of individuals affected by President Obama's November 20, 2014 executive action on immigration, you may be wondering how quickly you can begin to realize some of the benefits of this order. Although some such benefits are set to roll out as quickly as February 2015, this order is currently under attack by Congress and, if they are successful, some benefits may immediately cease. Read on to learn more about the potential congressional challenges to this action, and how they might affect your residency status.
What changes were made by the 2014 executive action?
There are a number of protections for children of illegal immigrants. These protections were expanded by the November 2014 executive action to permit children of illegal immigrants who were younger than 16 when they entered the United States and entered before 2010 to become eligible for admission as a citizen beginning as soon as February 18, 2015. This same executive action allows parents of citizens and permanent residents to petition for amnesty as long as they pass certain background checks and have lived in the United States since 2010.
Finally, the executive action can permit children and spouses of permanent residents to obtain residency in the U.S. For example, if an individual traveled to the U.S. on a work visa and later obtained permanent residency, he or she could have his family move to the U.S. upon receipt of residency status, rather than having the spouse and children obtain their own residency or visa status.
What challenges are being raised against these changes?
In January 2015, members of the U.S. Senate introduced a bill that would overturn many of the amnesty provisions offered by the executive action. This bill is unlikely to pass in its current form; however, due to the political climate, this bill could potentially be pushed through or used as leverage. Many members of Congress believe that this executive action was an unlawful use of presidential power and should be overturned.
There are additional rumblings about removing certain portions of the executive action, particularly those that help parents, spouses, or children of lawful citizens or permanent residents achieve residency. In some cases, even if your child is naturalized under the executive action, you could still be subject to deportation if any portion of this action is overturned by Congress. In other cases, children and spouses of permanent residents could be immediately deported or detained at border crossing. Since 2016 is a presidential election year, this law may remain in flux for some time before and following the election.
What should you do to preserve your new rights?
First, you should always monitor the United States Citizenship and Immigration website to ensure that you are up-to-date on any potential changes to federal immigration law. These changes are announced by the federal government on this website before they are released to the media, so by signing up for an email alert you can remain proactive about any changes.
Next, you may want to consult an immigration counseling lawyer. Although the executive action allows you to petition for naturalization or citizenship without using an attorney, your odds of success are always better when you bring in someone with specific legal expertise in immigration law and reform. Even if laws are changed that could potentially subject you or your family to deportation, your attorney may be able to argue that there are extenuating circumstances that justify you remaining in the U.S. In many cases, a successful argument could allow you and your family to remain in the U.S. as these laws continue to shift in an advantageous way.