In November 2014, President Barack Obama established a new executive order that addressed border security and illegal immigration. By statistical estimates, the new executive order would provide for some distinct benefits to about 5 million immigrants who were already in the country.
Due to limited resources to remove all illegal immigrants from the country, the Department of Homeland Security was given three different priority groups to focus on while having the discretion not to pursue individuals who were in the country illegally but posed no real threat to security or the immigration system.
The highest priority is on individuals who pose a threat to national security, border security or public safety. These are characterized as individuals who engage in terrorism, individuals who are apprehended at ports of entry while attempting to illegally enter the United States, individuals who participate in gang activity and individuals who are convicted of a felony or aggravated felony.
The second priority is to remove individuals who have been convicted of three or more misdemeanors other than minor traffic offenses, individuals who are convicted of domestic violence, sexual abuse, burglary, sexual exploitation, unlawful possession of a firearm, driving under the influence, drug charges or other crimes that result in more than 90 days jail time, individuals who have abused the visa program or individuals who are apprehended after illegal entry who cannot show that they have continuously resided in the United States since January 1, 2014.
This priority encompasses individuals who have committed immigration violations and who have been ordered remove on or after January 1, 2014.
President Obama’s executive order emphasizes the importance of apprehending criminals and not punishing individuals who have been in the country for a substantial period of time who help care for their family. It also allows undocumented immigrants to pay taxes and stay in the United States temporarily without being in fear of removal. Individuals who take advantage of the new initiative may be eligible for a variety of benefits.
Social Security Number
Individuals who affirmatively apply for deferred action under the new executive actions will receive a new Social Security number. Immigrants can use this number for identifying purposes. They can also use their Social Security number to assist them in getting a driver’s license.
One of the most significant benefits that qualified applicants can receive is the legal right to work while in the United States. Individuals who are eligible for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals can now receive work authorization for a minimum of three years instead of two. There is also a new program entitled “Deferred Action for Parental Accountability” that allows parents to receive work authorization for a minimum of three years.
Subject of Provisional Waivers
Provisional waivers are used to allow individuals who would otherwise not be able to pursue legal status to be allowed to apply for immigration benefits. New executive actions now allow spouses and children of United States citizens and permanent residents to be used for the purpose of obtaining an unlawful presence waiver.
After individuals pay into the system for a certain number of years, they are eligible for certain federal benefits. By paying payroll taxes, these individuals may be able to receive Social Security and Medicare benefits. Additionally, immigrants would be eligible for survivor benefits if the decedent had worked for at least ten years. Current laws require individuals to work for at least ten years before they can receive these benefits. In order for individuals impacted by the executive order to become eligible for federal benefits, Congress or future executive orders would need to be extended for this to occur. However, income-based aid, such as food stamps or welfare would not be available for these applicants. Additionally, current laws do not allow for these individuals to purchase healthcare through a federal exchange or take advantage of tax credits that would make health insurance more affordable.
Applying for Benefits
At the time of publication, USCIS had not yet established a procedure for individuals to apply for these benefits. However, they were in the process of developing necessary forms and procedures. However, eligible individuals can begin gathering documentation that they will likely need in order to be approved, such as documents that show their identity, establish their relationship to a United States citizen or permanent resident and demonstrate their continuous residence in the United States for five years or more.