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Summary Of President Obama Executive Action

In November 2014, President Obama announced his Immigration Accountability Executive Action, designed to implement updates to the US immigration system. Some people call this the obama amnesty. An executive order is a presidential directive that becomes law and can be implemented rapidly. On the other hand, an executive action is much broader than an executive order. The term can include any action the president takes. Only the U.S. Congress can make immigration law.


The executive action, or obama amnesty, could protect approximately 4 million undocumented immigrants from deportation:

  • 3.5 million parents of U.S. citizens with five or more years of residence.

  • 180,000 parents of legal permanent residents with five or more years of residence, and 290,000 people who arrived in the country as children.
  • 290,000 people who arrived in the country as children.


However, 6.2 million undocumented immigrants would still lack protection from removal. President Obama executive action tackles a number of immigration issues. Here are some of the most recent immigration news:

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Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)

President Obama plan to expand DACA removes the age cap on DACA, so anyone can apply, regardless of age, so long as they arrived in the country before they turned 16 years old. The executive action also changes the physical presence requirement. Under the expanded program, people must have resided in the United States since January 1, 2010 instead of June 15, 2007. In addition, people will receive deferred action and work authorization for three years instead of two. The expanded program was supposed to go into effect on February 18, 2015, but it has been delayed by a federal court order that was issued on February 16, 2015. The court order does not affect anyone currently on deferred action. For more information download the US Amnesty Information Guide.


Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA)

This program will permit parents of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents (regardless of age) who have lived in the United States continuously since January 1, 2010, who pass background checks, and who pay back taxes to remain in the United States. Currently, the USCIS has not shared any regulations or application forms for DAPA, but this benefit is likely to have some requirements similar to DACA. The government projects that people will be able to begin applying for DAPA in May 2015. Like DACA, DAPA will be granted in three-year increments and is renewable. For more information download the US Amnesty Information Guide.


Employment Authorization for H-4 Spouses

The executive action directs the USCIS to publish regulations that permit employment authorization for spouses of H-1B visa holders who hold H-4 visas. The idea is to encourage skilled H-1B workers to remain in the United States. The regulation was published on February 25, 2015 and will become effective on May 26, 2015.

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Other Important Executive Actions:

  • Setting New Enforcement Priorities
  • F-1 Optional Practical Training
  • Clarifying Standards for L-1B Visas Addressing Visa Backlogs
  • Promoting Research, Development, and Entrepreneurs
  • Offering Provisional Waivers to More Family Members
  • Modernizing the PERM Labor Certification Process
  • Protecting Victims of Human Trafficking
  • Expanding Travel Protections
  • Extending Parole in Place


More information about these immigration news about executive actions can be found in the US Amnesty Information Guide.


Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986

The purpose of the IRCA of 1986 was to deter illegal immigration to the United States. But there were two sides of the issue: one side wanted to reduce illegal immigration, and the other side wanted to allow illegal immigrants already here to stay by granting them amnesty. So the IRCA of 1986 included some major provisions to appease both sides, granting amnesty to over 3 million illegal immigrants in the process:

  • It granted amnesty to illegal immigrants who had been in the United States continuously since 1982 (four years).
  • It granted amnesty to illegal immigrants who worked in certain agricultural industries.
  • It created penalties for employers who knowingly hired illegal immigrants.
  • It increased U.S. border enforcement.


Last updated March 2015


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