Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law
 Comprehensive Immigration Reform


President Obama has tried his hand at administrative immigration reform primarily by issuing two programs to give some immigrants temporary "deferred action status" and work permits for two to three years if they have U.S. citizen children and have resided here since January 2010 (DAPA), or if they were brought here as children (DACA and expanded DACA).

    • The Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) was announced by DHS Secretary Johnson on November 20, 2014, and grants "deferred action status" and temporary work permits for three years to most parents of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents provided they have lived in the United States continuously since January 1, 2010, and pass required background checks.  - Read the November 20, 2014 memorandum from Secretary Jeh Johnson announcing DAPA and expanded DACA)
    • In 2012, the Deferred Action For Childhood Arrivals program (DACA) was implemented by then DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano. The program permits young adults born outside the United States, but raised in this country, to apply for "deferred action status" (temporary legal status) and work permits for two years. On November 14, 2015 DHS Secretary Johnson announced a policy expanding the population eligible for the DACA program to people of any current age who entered the United States before the age of 16 and lived in the United States continuously since January 1, 2010, and extending the period of DACA and work authorization from two years to three years. -  Read the 2012 DHS enforcement memorandum regarding DACA’s original implementation.


On February 16, in a case brought by the state of Texas and 25 other states, U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen issued a preliminary (temporary) injunction blocking implementation of the DAPA/expanded DACA programs until a trial is conducted regarding the plaintiffs' claims. (Read the Judge Hanen's injunction and opinion here - State of Texas v. United States, Civil No. B-14-254 , United States District Court for The Southern District of Texas Brownsville Division, Memorandum and Order, Document 145, filed 02/16/15 ("Preliminary Injunction"). 

The Center supports the Administration's emergency appeal to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals of Judge Hanen's refusal to stay his preliminary injunction. However, we believe that there are several critically important steps President Obama could take to better protect immigrants and at the same time address head-on the federal court's blocking of his efforts at immigration reform.

Peter Schey, President of the Center, has released the report "Comprehensive White House Immigration Reform: President Obama is Missing the Boat and Leaving Millions of Immigrants Stranded" (available to download here) outlining in detail the steps President Obama should take to implement effective immigration reform during this crucial time in his Administration. In summary, President Obama should immediately take the following executive action:

    1. To protect immigrants' rights under DAPA/DACA, and to overcome the primary reason for the injunction now blocking DAPA/expanded DACA, President Obama should promptly issue formal regulations on DAPA/DACA.
    2. President Obama should adopt regulations allowing all immigrants eligible for family or employment-based visas under existing law, and the parents of DACA recipients, to apply for and be granted "advance parole" (permission to travel abroad and return to the U.S.) for personal or business purposes.
    3. President Obama should immediately reverse his policy of detaining Central American "mothers" and their children in response to the temporary 2014 "surge" in Central American minors entering the U.S.
    4. The Administration should promptly adopt regulations allowing thousands of Central Americans and Haitians who have been residing continuously in the U.S. for over 25 years on Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to obtain lawful permanent resident status
    5. President Obama should modify the terms of the recently issued Priorities Enforcement Program (PEP) (involving "priorities" for deportation) and adopt the policy as a formal regulation. Immigrants who are not security threats or have not been convicted of serious crimes should be granted "stays of deportation" until the Administration has eliminated the backlog of cases involving national security threats and serious criminal convictions.
    6. Adopt regulations to increase the number of immigrants granted "waivers" of inadmissibility.

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