What Obama’s Immigration Reform Plan Means


Maria Manzano stopped looking over her shoulder two years ago and now looks forward to an immigration reform plan that will help her family and millions of other undocumented immigrants.

The 29-year-old became became a temporary legal U.S. resident through the Deferred Action For Childhood Arrivals Program (DACA). The program gave her a Social Security number, a work permit and a real chance at a strong economic foothold in the country she calls home.

President Obama may soon issue an executive order to expand DACA to other young immigrants and set up a similar deferred action program for parents of U.S. citizens, legal residents and spouses, according to The New York Times. Maria’s family could benefit.

Her parents came to New York from Mexico 30 years ago. They worked, paid taxes and raised their children in the U.S., but they share a sense of unease with millions of other undocumented immigrants. “This reform would give peace of mind to my parents,” Maria said.

What Obama’s Immigration Reform Plan Means

A presidential order could ease the anxiety of millions and allow them to work legally. An estimated 3.3 million family members may become eligible for Social Security cards, work permits and drivers’ licenses.

The Obama plan would also provide temporary legal status for people who’ve lived in the U.S. for five years, regardless of whether a family member is a citizen or has temporary legal status.

Overall, the executive order would extend temporary legality to an estimated 8.5 million, according to the Migration Policy Institute in Washington.

Since his first election, in 2008, immigrant advocates hoped the President would set a new immigration agenda. But anti-immigrant factions in Congress, and Republican hostility toward Obama’s initiatives, made it impossible. Now, with big Democratic party losses in the midterm elections, the President apparently plans to side-step Congress completely.

But the prospect of a temporary solution, without the backing of both parties, worries some. Californian Noel Castro wonders what will happen to his parents if they sign up for a program that gives them legal status, only temporarily, and Republicans take the White House in 2016.  A new president could rescind the executive order.

“The government would have all of my parents’ information…and if the Congress cancels the measure in the future, it would be easier to catch them and deport them,” Castro says.

Deportation remains a real concern.

The Obama administration vigorously enforced deportation and sent more than 2 million packing in a failed effort to woo Republican support for immigration reform. Instead immigration advocates dubbed him the Deporter-in-Chief and lost confidence in his ability to achieve reform.

But the executive order would switch the emphasis and focus on deporting criminals and those caught at the country’s borders.

President Obama has not confirmed the leaked details of the reforms but we may know more this week.

See our report Biometrics Not So Scary

And How to Apply For Deferred Action

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Barbara Nevins Taylor

As the winner of 22 Emmy Awards and a slew of journalism honors and awards, I created ConsumerMojo.com to give you the straight story about complicated stuff. Tell us what you want to know and we'll get you the answers.