Immigration: President Obama And Secretary Janet Napolitano Announces New Immigration Benefits For Young People. – What Does It Mean?

On June 15, 2012 President Obama announced that he has now signed an executive order that would provide relief for individuals who were brought to the United States as children. The Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano announced that effective immediately, certain young people who were brought to the United States as young children, do not present a risk to national security or public safety, and meet several key criteria will be considered for relief from removal from the country or from entering into removal proceedings. Those who demonstrate that they meet the criteria will be eligible to receive deferred action for a period of two years, subject to renewal, and will be eligible to apply for work authorization. This article will briefly highlight the requirements of the new law.


Under this new law, individuals who demonstrate that they meet the following criteria will be eligible for an exercise of discretion, specifically deferred action, on a case by case basis:


1.       Came to the United States under the age of sixteen;

2.       Have continuously resided in the United States for a least five years preceding the date of this memorandum and are present in the United States on the date of this memorandum;

3.       Are currently in school, have graduated from high school, have obtained a general education development certificate, or are honorably discharged veterans of the Coast Guard or Armed Forces of the United States;

4.       Have not been convicted of a felony offense, a significant misdemeanor offense, multiple misdemeanor offenses, or otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety;

5.       Are not older than the age of thirty (30).


Only those individuals who can prove through verifiable documentation that they meet these criteria will be eligible for deferred action. Individuals will not be eligible if they are not currently living in the United States and cannot prove that they have been physically present in the United States for a period of not less than 5 years immediately preceding the date of June 15, 2012. Deferred action requests are decided on a case-by-case basis. DHS cannot provide any assurance that all such requests will be granted. The use of prosecutorial discretion confers no substantive right, immigration status, or pathway to citizenship.


1.      Question:  Can I now apply for my immigration benefits under this new law?

Answer: Currently the answer is No. While this law takes effect immediately, USCIS and ICE expect to begin implementation of the application processes within sixty (60) days.  In the meantime, individuals seeking more information on the new policy should contact our firm.


2.      Question:  Can I get a green card or U.S. citizenship under this new law?

Answer: This new immigration law does not currently provide a pathway to permanent residence “green card” or to U.S. citizenship. This new law provides a work permit and protection from removal/deportation for some individuals for two years. After two years individuals can renew their work permit and receive protection for another two years provided that the Government allows them to do this.


3.      Question:  What is deferred action?

Answer: This is an excellent question. Deferred action simply means that the Government has decided to delay its authority in removing/deporting individuals who are subject to deportation. In other words deferred action means that the Government has chosen to delay its action of removing/deporting some individuals and instead have opted to provide them with limited immigration benefits. In this case the Government has opted to provide these individuals with a work permit and the right to remain in the United States on a temporary basis. It is important to note that deferred action is temporary. Deferred action is subject to the Government’s discretion and it can be terminated any time. In addition, deferred action does not lead to a permanent immigration status such as permanent residence “green card” or United States citizenship. However, the Government does have the option of providing permanent benefits to these individuals in the future. We will now need to wait and see if the Government decides to do this in the future. However, presently deferred action is only temporary and does not provide a green card or United States citizenship.


4.      Question:  I am now in removal proceedings can this new law help me?

Answer: This new law may definitely be able to help you provided that you meet all the requirements. If you are presently in removal and you do not have an attorney it would be best to hire counsel to request the termination of your removal based on this new law.


5.      Question: Where can I read about the details of the law?

Answer: You may view the USCIS’ fact sheet at:



Individuals seeking more detailed information on the new policy should contact the Law Office of Safiya Byars. We can be reached at 678-954-5809 or 404-992-6506. Individuals can also email their inquiries to [email protected].

Disclaimer: This article is a broad overview and is provided as a public service. This article is not intended to establish an attorney-client relationship. Any reliance on the information contained herein is taken at your own risk. The information provided in this article should never replace informed counsel when specific immigration-related guidance is needed. 


About the Writer:
Safiya Byars ([email protected]) is the senior partner and owner in the Law Office of Safiya Byars ( She is an active member of the Caribbean and International communities in Georgia. She graduated Summa Cum Laude from the University of Montevallo and received her law degree from the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Her office is located at 160 Clairemont Avenue, Ste. 200, Decatur, Georgia 30030.  Attorney Byars handles all immigration matters, deportation defense, family law issues, and business formation/litigation. To discuss you case, contact Attorney Byars at 404-992-6506 or 678-954-5809.