Executive Action on Immigration Reform

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Local immigration attorney Regina Jefferies will discuss President Obama’s executive order on immigration.

Ted Simons: President Barack Obama issued an executive action last week that suspends deportation for some 5 million illegal immigrants. Here to discuss what exactly the action does is Phoenix immigration attorney Regina Jeffries. So, what did the executive action do?

Regina Jeffries: It did quite a lot of things. One of the most known thing is that it did extend the deferred action program to more individuals who were brought here as children, who had been present in the U.S. since they were under 16. What it did was remove the age cap, so previously individuals under 31 at the time of the 2012 order were able to apply that age cap was removed. It also expanded the program to include parents of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents who don't have any serious criminal histories and who, otherwise, go through background checks and are vetted. That's one of the major points most people were talking about, but also sort of reprioritized who the administration, who the executive is going to go after for deportation, that's another major point. Essentially, it said that individuals with felony conviction, aggravated felonies, multiple misdemeanors that are serious, those individuals will be an enforcement priority for the executive because of the limited resources. So, there will be more of a focus on those individuals and less on individuals that are driving without a driver's license or something.

Ted Simons: And I want to get to those in a second but back to the folks you mentioned initially. Again, this is just deserving deportations for three years. It's a temporary situation.

Regina Jeffries: That's correct. It's temporary. It's something that can be reversed at any time. For example, if someone committed a crime that would disqualify them or make them a priority, that deferred action could be taken away from them. So, it's by no means any grant of legal status. It is authorization to remain in the U.S. and to work in the U.S. while we all wait for Congress to do something about the immigration system. But, it is a temporary program.

Ted Simons: And according to what the President wants to do now, after the three-year span is over, eligible to renew for another three years exists? Or is that just the idea?

Regina Jeffries: That is the idea. We'll have a new President by that time, and so it remains to be seen. Of course, each executive has the authority to prioritize and make regulations and rules to enforce the statutes on the books, so a new President would be able to reprioritize if they thought necessary.

Ted Simons: So, these folks who had been in the U.S. for five plus years, they passed the background check, no serious felony convictions. All these folks that you had mentioned. What do they do next?

Regina Jeffries: They wait. The most important thing is for people to know that these processes and procedures to apply for deferred action don't yet exist. For individuals under the expanded childhood arrival deferred action program, so individuals that might have been over 31 when the last program was announced, for those individuals, a new process will be announced, hopefully within 90 days of November 20. For parents of the U.S. citizens and permanent residents, it will be more along the lines of 180 days, so the most important thing right now is to know that you are not able to apply at the moment and to educate yourself about the requirements, and then to prepare for the eventual implementation.

Ted Simons: Do you think that those who qualify will come out of the shadows?

Regina Jeffries: I think that based on what we have seen in the past with the prior deferred action program, that a large number of people will come forward. What's really interesting is that in the past with the past deferred action program, so many people did come forward and seek legal advice about their situation and found out that they might qualify for another type of relief. I think we'll see a large number of people coming forward to find out if they qualify for this program or potentially other legal programs, and so I think that there will be a response because it's something that people were waiting for, for such a long time.

Ted Simons: What about families? I know the President said he wanted to concentrate on keeping families against -- focus on felons and not families. But, if you have to be here for five plus years, what if some members of the family were not? Some have? How does that work?

Regina Jeffries: You know, that happens a lot. A lot of times family members are in different situations. If they have not had that continuance presence since the date the President gave or the executive gave in the memorandum issued, they would not qualify for this deferred action at the moment. So, they may have to wait for Congress to do especially.

Ted Simons: Parents of dreamers, where do they fit into this?

Regina Jeffries: They don't fit in to this, unless they have a child who is a citizen. They were not included in the executive action, and that's been a bone of conception because there are so many people that fall into that category.

Ted Simons: More focus to deport felony convictions, and there also seems to be a streamlining of the visa application process and trying to get folks -- have a place here or can contribute here to start contributing. How does that work?

Regina Jeffries: That's right. So, each year the department of state is supposed to issue a number of visas to individuals that qualify for those. And the way that it is done, it is based on numbers that Congress set back in 1990, they set these, actually, what are now really low numbers, based on demand, so they are not really tied to any demand. What the department has done in the past is they have issued visas, but in a way, it's let a lot of visas go to waste where people would qualify. The problem is that you have so many people that qualify through work or employment, that would qualify for these types of visas that we really need people here to fill, like science, technology, and investment positions, and that they are not able to do because these visas are going to waste, so a streamlining of that system to ensure that those visas that should be available don't go to waste, and they are used for what they are intended.

Ted Simons: And it might be easier for entrepreneur and is job creators, you educate them and they leave. The idea is find a spot for them here?

Regina Jeffries: That's right.

Ted Simons: What are you telling people right now that are coming to see you and saying, I don't understand. I don't know what I'm supposed to do? What are you hearing or saying?

Regina Jeffries: We're hearing people with a lot of questions, and what does this mean? There is so much information out there, and what is so important is that people get individualized information about their own situation. You can't generalize something like this because it is such an individual review that you have to conduct of a person's case. So, what I would do is have someone come in and take a look and see if they would qualify under any of the programs that were announced, any expansions is, and whether they would qualify under any existing, you know, path to legal status, as well. So, that's something that I would do, and I would tell people to watch and wait and be patient and get the information that you need.

Ted Simons: And quickly, we have a minute left here, and as far as driver's licenses for dreamers, we heard the Ninth Circuit saying no thanks, your thoughts?

Regina Jeffries: Well, this is something that we have done telling Governor Brewer for would years, and I don't know if she will get the message with this last order, but they said the Governor's policy of denying driver's licenses to dreamers who are lawfully authorized to work in the U.S., and authorized to be here is likely unconstitutional. So the injunction against that policy should go into effect.

Ted Simons: And quickly, will you tell folks how long before those dreamers can get drivers?

Regina Jeffries: It will depend on whether the governor decides to seek cert.

Ted Simons: And well, lots of stuff to go over. Thanks for joining us.

Regina Jeffries: Thank you.

Regina Jefferies:Immigration Attorney, Phoenix;

Phoenix Mayor Stanton

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