DREAM and Immigration Reform

In recent years, several changes to policy and practice have been instituted by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which effect who will be pursued by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for deportation, as well as classes of people who will be considered for relief.

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)

The first of these policy changes came on June 15, 2012 when DHS announced a new program that offered grants of deferred action, in two-year increments, to certain individuals who entered the U.S. as children.  Meant to target undocumented immigrant youth, who are also referred to as DREAMers, a grant of deferred action makes individuals are eligible for work authorization.  Deferred action is a discretionary and temporary determination by the government not to deport an individual.  Deferred action is not permanent residence, does not place a person on a path to permanent residence, and does not grant a person any legal status in the U. S.

State-side Waiver Program

The second policy change came in January 2013 with the DHS’ publication of a rule for how certain undocumented relatives of U.S. citizens apply for a waiver of the time they were in the U.S. without permission. The new state-side waiver rule results in significantly shorter periods of family separation by allowing a green card applicant to apply for and receive an approved waiver before leaving the U.S. for the consular interview.  As a result, the time that the applicant for permanent residence must spend outside the U.S. could be shortened to as little as a week. However, not all foreign nationals who have a U.S. citizen immediate relative (spouse, parent, child over 21 years of age) benefit from this rule.

While these policy changes represent piecemeal attempts to correct our broken immigration system, they are only elements of broader efforts toward comprehensive immigration reform.  To learn more about the status of comprehensive immigration reform, please click here.