The recent economic downturn placed a strain on the government resources available to prosecute individuals who violate the nation’s immigration laws. For several years, in an effort to use limited government resources as wisely as possible, the government focused on the removal of individuals who pose a danger to national security or a risk to public safety, with an emphasis on individuals convicted of violent crimes and felonies. Keeping this focus in mind, the Obama administration passed sweeping new changes to immigration law on June 15, 2012. Currently, applications for deferred actions are being accepted and approved. While many eligible applicants have applied for this program, there are a vast amount of individuals who have not. Department of Homeland Security has indicated that filing the application is not designed as a trick to place individuals in removal proceedings or to gather information concerning their whereabouts. Instead, it is set up as a mechanism to provide opportunities for our young population to continue their education and obtain meaningful employment. The new legislation allows for certain young people who were brought in the United States, through no fault of their own, to be considered for relief from removal proceedings by deferred action for two years. This is a postponement of the granting of a final order or removal or the postponement from placing someone in removal proceedings. When the two years end, an individual may apply for renewal. The person must prove that he or she meets the criteria to qualify. Only individuals that are able to prove they qualify through authenticated documentation will be eligible for relief. To meet eligibility, individuals must meet the following criteria:
- Do not pose a security or public safety risk
- Are not over 30 years old
- Were under 16 years old when they arrived in the United States
- Continuously lived in the United States for at least five years immediately preceding June 15, 2012, and are present in the United States on June 15, 2012
- Currently attending school; graduated from high school or have obtained a general education development certificate (GED); currently enrolled in an approved GED program; or are honorably discharged veterans, U.S. military of the United States
- Have not been convicted of a felony offense, a significant misdemeanor offense or multiple misdemeanor offenses
It’s important to note that meeting the eligibility requirements for deferred action does not guarantee relief. Deferred action is granted as an act of prosecutorial discretion. Prosecutorial discretion is a power granted to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) that allows ICE officers to use their “best judgment” in prosecuting cases. ICE officers will decide on a case-by-case basis if individuals who meet the above criteria should receive deferred action. Deferred action does not create a path to permanent residency or citizenship. The individual still has to go through the process of applying for visa, green card or citizenship. However, individuals granted deferred action may obtain for work authorization during the two-year period. This may also allow them to obtain a drivers license in some jurisdictions. This new program offers the chance to prevent the removal of productive individuals to a country where they may have never lived or may not speak the language. Though the requirements look simple, it takes time to gather and determine what qualifies as proper supporting documentation. A qualified immigration attorney can guide you through the process. Additionally, meeting the criteria is not a guarantee that you will be granted deferred action. You may need an attorney to convince ICE that you are not a threat to national security or border security and thus deserve deferred action. Call our Tampa/Clearwater attorney today at 727-219-9009 to discuss your situation.