Here is an overview of what the President's executive action will mean assuming the President is legally allowed to go forward his plans.
Deferred Action For 4.4 Million Undocumented Aliens
Previously, President Obama by executive action enacted Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals ("DACA") which allowed undocumented aliens under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012 who arrived in the country prior to their 16th birthday and had continuously resided in the U.S. for at least five years to apply for a deferred action benefit, which allowed eligible beneficiaries to remain in the country for a 2-year period with opportunity for extensions and to obtain authorization to work. The President's executive action will eliminate the age cap and extend DACA coverage from those arriving prior to June 15, 2007 to include those arriving on or before June 15, 2010. Previously, only persons under the age of 31 were eligible for deferred action. Now anyone who entered the U.S. prior to their 16th birthday is eligible. A person granted the DACA benefit under the new program will be afforded the benefit for a 3-year period, subject to renewal. This part of the expanded DACA benefit is expected to be up and running within 90 days.
The second and most profound change in the deferred action benefit is the expanded coverage the President intends to offer to an estimated 4.4 million undocumented aliens who are parents of U.S. citizen and lawful permanent resident children who have been continuously present in the country since January 1, 2010. If individuals in this so-called DAP category pass background checks and pay back taxes, they will be eligible for deferred action with work authorization for a period of 3-years subject to renewal just like DACA beneficiaries. This new deferred action category is expected to be up and running within 180 days.
I-601A Waiver Expansion
The I-601A conditional waiver program, which allows undocumented aliens applying for a family immigration benefit for an immediate relative to apply for the hardship waiver prior to departing the country for an immigrant visa interview at a consulate abroad, will be expanded to include spouses and children of lawful permanent residents. The President's action will also clarify and expand the definition what qualifies as an "extreme hardship."
Existing ICE memos regarding enforcement priorities and prosecutorial discretion are to be replaced with a priority on the following categories of immigrants: (1) suspected terrorists, convicted felons, convicted gang members and persons apprehended on the border; (2) persons convicted of multiple or serious misdemeanors and very recent border crossers (those entering after January 1, 2014; and (3) Those who, after January 1, 2014, failed to leave under a removal order or returned after removal. The revised memo will contain strong language on the use of prosecutorial discretion.
Employer-based Adjustment of Status
Individuals with an approved employment-based immigrant petition who are caught in the quota backlog for adjustment of status will be advanced to permit them to obtain the benefit of a pending adjustment. This change will affect about 410,000 petitions.
Business Immigration Changes
Changes are being proposed that are billed as improvements in business immigration such as those offered to investors or national interest waivers could be made available to entrepreneurs, inventors, researchers and founders. The length of optional practical training ("OPT") for STEM graduates is expected to be expanded.
Parole-in-place will be expanded to include families of individuals trying to enlist in the armed forces.
Efforts will be made to modernize the current visa system. One such issue that may be addressed is whether derivative family members should be counted against the visa quota and whether past unused visa numbers can be recaptured.
State and Local Law Enforcement
The Secure Communities program will be replaced with the Priority Enforcement Program ("PEP"). Detainers are expected to be replaced by requests for notification to ICE when a law enforcement agency is about to release an alien from jail.