The term “executive order” has been extensively used in the debate over changes in immigration policy by President Barack Obama. However, no executive order has been issued to date. Rather, there have been “executive actions” directing certain departments of the government to implement policy changes.
A few examples are as follows:
1. Shift resources to the border and recent “border crossers” — Department of Homeland Security
2. Develop new immigration enforcement priorities — DHS
3. Expand Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals to cover additional children — Under the initial DACA program, young people who had been in the U.S. for at least five years, came as children, and met specific education and public safety criteria were eligible for temporary relief from deportation so long as they were born after 1981 and entered the country before June 15, 2007. DHS is expanding DACA so that individuals who were brought to this country as children can apply if they entered before Jan. 1, 2010, regardless of how old they are today. DACA relief also will be granted for three years.
4. Streamline the immigration court process — Department of Justice will implement immigration court reforms to address the backlog of pending cases by working with DHS to more quickly adjudicate cases of individuals meeting the new DHS-wide enforcement priorities.
5. Victims of crime and human trafficking as well as workers — Department of Labor is to expand and strengthen immigration options for victims of crimes (U visas) and trafficking (T visas) who cooperate in government investigations. An interagency working group also will explore ways to ensure workers can avail themselves of their labor and employment rights without fear of retaliation
6. Removal of national security, border security and public safety threats — A new DHS-wide memorandum will issue regarding enforcement activity to be focused on national security threats, serious criminals and recent “border crossers.” DHS will direct all of its enforcement resources at pursuing these highest priorities for removal.
7. Implementing a new Priority Enforcement Program — Identify and remove criminals in state and local jails in a way that sustains the community’s trust. DHS is replacing the existing Secure Communities program with a new Priority Enforcement Program to remove those convicted of criminal offenses. DHS will continue to rely on biometric data to verify individuals who are enforcement priorities, and they will also work with DOJ’s Bureau of Prisons to identify and remove federal criminals serving time as soon as possible.
The above items represent about one-third of the actions being directed by the White House.
James R. Madden