Executive Orders and Immigration: What the President’s Speech Means for Your Family

On November 20, President Obama addressed the country in a 15 minute speech centered on immigration reform. He called for Congress to pass a bill that will overhaul our immigration system – but he does not plan on waiting for that bill to come to light. Instead, President Obama will issue an Executive Order that will serve to keep millions of immigrants here in America without fear of deportation – at least while he remains in office.

This is a courageous move, and we are glad that the President has finally made good on his promise to reform the immigration system, but the order is far from perfect. Without a bill from Congress, the order could be overturned by the next president, and the order does not offer relief to large groups of immigrants, including agricultural workers or the parents of children who are citizens. It may not be comprehensive, but it is a step in the right direction.

Understanding how his plan works

The President is not advocating for total amnesty; rather, he is creating circumstances where hard-working immigrants and their families can begin the path to permanent residence (and eventually citizenship) without fearing that they will be deported.  The Executive Order generally applies to:

  • Immigrants who have lived in the United States for at least five years
  • High-skilled workers who come to America to train or study, but then return to their native countries to live and work
  • Children who fall under the guidelines for DACA

President Obama’s order relies heavily on prosecutorial discretion, which allows enforcement agencies to essentially not apply the law to or “ignore” immigrants who pose no threat.  Prosecutorial discretion allows agencies to focus their energies on finding criminals and terrorists, not immigrants who work and contribute to society but are not here legally.

The President’s speech made it clear that anyone who crosses the border into America illegally from this day forward will not be granted relief from removal; his order is a way for families that are already in America to live and work legally.   An immigrant under this program won’t automatically get a green card either. Instead, an immigrant will be asked to file the appropriate petitions and forms and go through the process of obtaining residence legally.

President Obama called for immigrant families to “come out of the shadows.” We want to help you do just that. If you have questions about the Executive Order or about obtaining a green card or working legally in the United States as a result of President Obama’s action, contact the Law Office of Perry A. Craft for more information.