Young, undocumented immigrants across the nation are smiling today, and for good reason.  Effective immediately, otherwise undocumented immigrants under the age of 30 who were brought to the United States as children and who meet other specialized criteria will no longer be subject to deportation or removal and will be eligible for work authorization.


The change in policy announced today by President Barack Obama is effective immediately.  While this policy is intended to provide the type of relief long sought under the stalled DREAM Act, President Obama made it clear that this policy decision “is not amnesty” and does not equate to a permanent solution for these young people.


The change does not provide a path to citizenship or lawful permanent residency for any of the qualifying immigrants.  However, it does permit them to obtain what is known as Deferred Action in two-year increments and obtain work authorization.  It is believed that as many as 800,00 young immigrants will be benefit from the decision.


Although the new policy falls short of comprehensive reform, it does provide so-called ‘DREAMers’ with new hope.  Those who meet the requirements of Deferred Action will no longer need to live in fear of being deported to a country they hardly know.  Furthermore, these young people, many of who largely already consider themselves just as American as their peers, will be able to legally work to support themselves and their families.


Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) and The United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) will begin implementation of the new policy claiming it should be ready for applications within 60 days. In addition to age, entry, and other requirements, status seekers must demonstrate good moral character, and a mostly pristine criminal record.  Those wishing to apply should consult with a qualified immigration attorney to discuss eligibility and steps necessary to take advantage of this exciting new policy.


Isabel Cueva is a licensed U.S. Immigration Attorney and Associate Attorney at Higbee & Associates located in Santa Ana, CA.