November 15, 2013, WASHINGTON DC

According the the Associated Press, the Obama administration has issued a nine-page policy directive memorandum which will allow certain relatives of U.S. service members living in the United States illegally to stay. This order gives U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) officials the power to “parole in place” immigrant spouses, children and parents of current U.S. service members, reservists and veterans, allowing those immigrants to apply to legally live in the United States. Until now, Obama’s policy changes have been more broad and controversial. He instructed the government to use its discretion to find and deport only the most serious criminals. Then in mid-2012, he announced a plan called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (“DACA”), which affords young immigrants in the country illegally a reprieve from deportation and work permits for at least two years. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”), issued a memorandum in August addressing how to deal with immigrant parents or legal guardians of young children. The memo said that before someone is deported, ICE officials should consider whether he or she is the primary caregiver for a minor child, has a direct interest in a family court or welfare proceeding or is the parent or guardian to children who are U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents. The administration has also allowed immigrant spouses and children of U.S. citizens to stay in the United States in some cases. Other rule changes have given more flexibility to the Homeland Security Department’s use of immigration detainers for people in local jails, and all such administrative changes have long been criticized by House Republicans. Obama has repeatedly said immigration reform is a top priority of his administration. Although the Senate earlier this year passed a sweeping bill that called for the doubling of the Border Patrol and a path to legal status for the estimated 11 million immigrants already living illegally in the country, activity has stalled in the House. It appears that Obama’s selection of Jeh Johnson, the Pentagon’s former top lawyer, who has no immigration experience, as the next Homeland Security secretary signals that the White House, rather than the department, will now lead the push for immigration law changes. Joseph G. Cella, Esq.

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