President Barack Obama addressed the nation this week to unveil executive action on immigration reform, which will offer temporary legal status to undocumented parents of United States citizens and residents who have lived in the country for at least five years. The measures to be implemented include deferring the deportation of up to 5 million of the estimated 12 million people who entered the United States illegally. He also announced he will boost visas for valuable high-skilled workers, and strengthen security along the Southwest border.

The president is offering deportation protection to the parents of children who are either U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents, and he said he will expand protection to more children who entered the country illegally with their parents. Those two groups will be allowed to legally work in the United States, after paying a fee and passing a background check.

  • Other key details of his executive order include:
  • An estimated 4.1 million undocumented parents and families of U.S. citizens who have been in country more than 5 years with no criminal record.
  • An estimated 400,000 highly-skilled workers will be eligible for some immigration benefits.
  • 300,000 undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. illegally as children, so-called Dreamers, will be newly eligible for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Current age limits for the program will be dropped, sources say.
  • Some other smaller categories for relief will bring the number affected above 5 million.

The action, which has been in the works for some time, is guaranteed to dominate national news for the next several days, but it’s important to remember that no one can yet speak with any certainty about how the order will be enacted. As such, it’s important to remain calm and to be cautious of anyone soliciting money in exchange for services based on the order in these initial stages.

If you are an undocumented worker with children:

The only action you should take right now is to compile all of the documents that prove you live, work and have begun a family in the United States into one, organized file. These documents may include:

  • Proof of age, such as birth certificate or passport
  • Proof of educational achievement, such as diplomas or GED certificates
  • Proof of entry, such as an I-94 card, passport stamp
  • Medical or employment records
  • Housing lease
  • Certified copies of arrests or convictions
  • Passport-style photos

Once the process to implement the executive action elements is established, these files will be helpful for immigration specialists.

It is imperative that you do not give money to or enter into any agreement with anyone who purports to know the process by which this order will be executed, or anyone who makes guarantees that they can do anything for you or your child. There simply is not enough information at this time.

If you are a business owner or HR professional:

The order’s effect on you and your business will depend on your specific situation. As the details of the action become clearer, an immigration attorney will be able to provide counsel that is specific to your business. For now, the order has highlighted the following options and changes for immigrant workers:

  • Changing the system to make it easier for foreign workers awaiting permanent residence to move to new employers
  • Work permission for spouses of certain H-1B visa holders
  • Expansion of STEM degrees eligible for Optional Practical Training (OPT) extensions.
  • Streamlining the process for foreign workers through additional guidance and modernization of regulations, specifically for L-1B visas and PERM labor certification
  • Allowing foreign workers seeking permanent residence that are otherwise backlogged to file applications for adjustment of status.

The timing on implementation on the provisions above is not known, but the work permission for H-1B spouses is expected in December or January. Caplan and Earnest will stay vigilant on how President Obama’s executive order will be enacted and keep you up to date as the process becomes clearer.

If you have any questions, please contact Immigration Law Section Head Brad Hendrick at 303-443-8010 or [email protected]

For a printable version of this announcement, please click here.