President Barack Obama is enacting new legislation, including an extended deferral period and the removal of the childhood arrival age limit, on behalf of illegal immigrants. President Obama is making an unprecedented move in the area of immigration, a complete overhaul the likes of which have not been seen in decades. The president is allowing almost five million undocumented immigrants to remain in the United States, while at the same time ramping up security along the borders to decrease the amount of illegal immigrants entering the country.
A Flood of Applications Expected Spring 2015
In the spring of 2015, a large number of applications from immigrants to the U.S. are expected to start pouring in. These undocumented persons will need to prove that they have resided in the United States for a minimum of five years, as well as other requirements. This validation will be difficult for many illegal immigrants, as most of them have spent their time in the country trying to find work and to keep their names from entering any official document or database. Added to this tricky task are the politicians who are doing their level best to remove these people from the United States, threatening that the information the immigrants provide could be used against them.
Among the five million undocumented illegal immigrants are those who were children when they were brought to the United States. Many people are taking advantage of program instituted in 2012 to protect young undocumented immigrants. The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA) has dealt with more than 700,000 applications, approving 630,000 of them. These applications were reviewed by officials at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
Frustration with USCIS Methods
Many people were angered at how USCIS handled the applications. One group, the American Immigration Lawyers Association, said that the length of time for other services provided by the USCIS, including green card and visa applications, went up during the approval process for young undocumented immigrants. Immigrants from around the country are also frustrated at the differing operational methods of the four USCIS service centers in America.
“Everyone’s case is adjudicated on a different time frame,” said Betsy Plum, a special projects director for the New York Immigration Coalition. According to Plum, different service centers have varying ways of handling the applications. Some centers are quickly able to gather the proofs they need to establish the immigrants in the country; others take more time to accomplish the same task.
Kamal Essaheb, a National Immigration Law Center policy attorney, says the government did a good job of responding to problems that popped up during these applications. Essaheb believes that the experience was beneficial to USCIS and the immigrants as they worked through the application process together.
Essaheb himself is a DACA recipient and understands the complications related to some applications. “There’s always a case that makes you scratch your head,” he said. Considering the 700,000+ applications processed by the DACA, the program has performed admirably under the circumstances.
New Rules to Take Effect
DACA will face a challenge next year as it works to incorporate the president’s new immigration policy. Before the current administration, the upper limit for those who desired to benefit from DACA was 30 years of age. Obama has removed that cap, making it possible for anyone who entered the United States before 2010 to apply for permission to remain.
The president also extended the two-year renewable period in which an illegal immigrant can live in the country without facing deportation to three years. The new immigration policy places a greater priority on the arrest and deportation of gang members and felons, as well as suspected terrorists and recent illegal immigrants.
Programs in Place to Help Immigrants Apply Successfully
Applicants for DACA have had to prove the five-year span they lived in the U.S. in various ways, including Facebook updates, traffic tickets and receipts. One person was able to establish their proof of residency by a photo of themselves in front of the World Trade Center towers. The current immigrant population will have a more difficult time providing residential proof, as many of them never attended a U.S. school, never signed an official document and worked under a false SSN.
DACA and the Mexican Embassy are working hard to provide documentation to Mexicans residing in the United States. These efforts included the organization of events to help Mexicans with the application process. According to Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., “Now that the president has acted, it is the responsibility of all of us who pushed for this to sign up as many people as possible.”