On June 15, 2012, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano announced a major change in United States immigration policy.
The policy allows certain young people brought into the United States as children to receive what is known as “deferred action” status for a period of two years, subject to renewal, and to apply for a work permit.
Under the new policy, young people who can demonstrate the following criteria will be eligible to apply for deferred action status and a work permit:
1. Came to the United States under the age of sixteen,
2. Have continuously resided in the United States for at least five years prior to June 15, 2012 and are present in the United States as of June 15, 2012,
3. Are currently in school, have graduated from high school, have obtained a GED, or are honorably discharged veterans of the Coast Guard or Armed Forces of the United States;
4. Have not been convicted of a felony offense, a significant misdemeanor offense, multiple misdemeanor offenses, or otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety;
5. Are not above the age of thirty.
The government plans to implement the application process for these new benefits within 60 days.
This new policy is particularly significant because it allows applicants the ability to obtain a work permit, a step the Obama administration had not yet taken despite several immigrant-friendly policy changes within the last year.
The new policy does not create a path to citizenship or “legalize” those affected, but it is basically an executive branch version of the DREAM ACT, because it allows successful applicants to live and work indefinitely in the United States.
For more information on Deferred Action visit the DHS website.