Yes, there is a new immigration law – or policy, to be more correct. And yes, it is good news. But it is not for everybody, and you must talk to an immigration lawyer to know whether it will help you in your case.
The Obama administration announced Friday, June 15, 2012 that it will direct the government to apply prosecutorial discretion and not proceed to deport young people who came to the US when they were younger than 16. According to the memorandum by Secretary Janet Napolitano, children who were brought to the US by their parents lacked the ability to form the intent to break the law, and it does not make sense to expend valuable resources on deporting such people, many of whom are culturally American and know no other country, and many of whom have already significantly contributed to the United States.
This is not “backdoor amnesty” in contrast to the vitriolic complaints of those like Gov. Jan Brewer of Arizona (who signed the rather infamous SB1070 “papers, please” law, prompting a legal challenge currently being decided by the US Supreme Court.) Amnesty means the granting of legal status to those who broke the law. No status is being granted to these hardworking people; it is simply a sensible, administrative allocation of resources that results in a more humane, just immigration system, and a net positive to the economy to boot.
Nor is it the “DREAM” Act, although few would argue that it’s not a significant step towards the passage of the DREAM Act. Many of the young people that would have qualified for actual status had the DREAM Act passed are now likely to benefit from this new policy. But it’s not circumventing Congress.
It’s called prosecutorial discretion, and it’s used by prosecutors in every courtroom in every state in this country every day. In this case, it is a form of deferred action, wherein the government recognizes that many people are low enforcement priorities, and that the letter and spirit of the law are not served by allocating resources to remove certain people from the United States.
Although the policy took effect immediately, implementing regulations will likely take another 60 days. In the meantime, here is what you need to know:
- Everyone’s case is different. Some will qualify, some will not. Only a lawyer can tell you whether you qualify.
- You have to qualify before you can file an application under the new law.
- If you qualify, you can file even if you have an order of deportation.
- You have to have entered the US before you turned 16
- You cannot be more than 30 years old now
- You cannot have any serious misdemeanors or felonies
- You have to have more than 5 years of residence in the US
- You have to either be in school, graduated high school, have a GED, or have served in the military
- If you qualify, you can get a work permit, a social security number, a driver’s license, and other benefits.
You will hear a lot of talk about this law. ONLY TAKE ADVICE FROM A LAWYER. Only a lawyer can help you determine whether you qualify, and what you need to file, and to which government agency. It can be dangerous to file an application if you do not qualify.