WASHINGTON (AFP) – President Barack Obama takes executive action Thursday to left the threat of deportation for some five million people, 44 percent of the estimated 11.3 million immigrants living illegally in the United States.
The nation’s undocumented people hail mostly from Mexico and Central America, and 60 percent of them live in just six US states: California, Florida, Illinois, New Jersey, New York and Texas.
Half of them have lived in the US for 13 years or more.
Here are details of Obama’s sweeping plan.
Authorization for three years
A new deferred action program will shield up to four million undocumented immigrants from deportation, allowing them to apply for three-year work permits.
Those eligible must have been in the United States for more than five years, and be a parent of a US citizen or of a legal permanent resident born on or before November 20, the date of Obama’s order.
Applicants must have a clean criminal record, pass a background check and pay taxes. They will also need to cover a processing fee of $465.
The Department of Homeland Security will begin accepting applications next spring.
Expanded path for young migrants
Obama is broadening the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program he created in June 2012 specifically for children, potentially adding 270,000 youths to the 600,000 already legalized by that program.
Children brought to the country before January 1, 2010 are now eligible, compared with DACA’s original June 15, 2007 cutoff.
The maximum age of 31 in the original program is removed, with no new age limit imposed.
As before, applicants must have arrived in the US before age 16.
Applicants must be in school or have a high school degree or equivalent, or have been honorably discharged from the military, and have a clean criminal record.
Work authorization is expanded to three years instead of two.
Federal authorities will shift deportation efforts from a broad dragnet to “much more sharply defined” priorities, a senior administration official said.
Those deportation targets include undocumented immigrants convicted of serious crimes, and people who recently crossed the border illegally.
Additional resources will help officials reinforce border security, speed deportation of border crossers, and streamline the immigration court process to help clear a backlog of pending cases.
The administration is poised to facilitate visas for highly-skilled workers and science and technology students, a move that could impact approximately 500,000 people.
Foreign graduates of US universities in STEM fields—science, technology, engineering and mathematics—will be allowed to work longer in country after earning degrees, without needing a new visa, through the “Optional Practical Training” extension program.