A June 2012 executive order on immigration issued by President Barack Obama defers the deportation of individuals under 31 years old as of June 15, 2012 who arrived here before age 16 and meet residency and other eligibility requirements. This relief for immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children, which is renewable, is known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). Deferred action is a form of prosecutorial discretion that does not confer lawful permanent resident status or a path to citizenship. Only Congress, acting through its legislative authority, can confer these rights.
On November 20, 2014, President Obama announced that he would take steps to help fix the country’s outdated immigration system. These steps, or “executive actions,” would grant deportation relief to up to 4.4 million people and help ensure a more just, sustainable and effective immigration system. Benefits of the executive actions include work authorization and access to a driver’s license. The executive actions also:
- Change Immigration Enforcement: Obama’s executive actions direct Immigration and Customs Enforcement to focus its energies on: stopping illegal immigration at the border, deporting people who threaten public safety or national security and ensuring accountability for undocumented immigrants who have lived in the U.S. for more than five years by encouraging them to register and undergo criminal background checks.
- Expand the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Program: Under the announced executive actions, DACA would now be available to individuals of any age who entered the U.S. before age 16 and lived here continuously since January 1, 2010. Under the expansion, the period of work authorization would be extended from two years to three years.
- Establish the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) Program: This new program would allow parents of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents to request deportation relief and employment authorization for three years if they have resided in the U.S. continuously since January 1, 2010 and pass a required background check.
In response to Obama’s November 2014 announcement, Texas led a coalition of 26 states in suing the President to stop his executive actions on immigration. Among other allegations, the states claimed that the President had violated the U.S. Constitution. Key developments in the case include:
- Judge halts actions: United States District Judge Andrew Hanen, the presiding judge, temporarily ordered the Obama administration to halt further activity under the executive actions. The order came two days before the government was to start taking applications under the expanded DACA program.
- Obama appeals: Obama has filed an appeal with the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals asking permission for the federal government to restart activity under the executive actions.
- States and others support Obama: Fifteen states and the District of Columbia; 173 mayors; 181 members of Congress; immigration advocacy, civil rights and labor groups and 109 immigration law professors file “friend of the court” briefs in support of Obama’s appeal to the Fifth Circuit.
- New Jersey opposes Obama: Previously silent, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie signs a “friend of the court” brief opposing Obama’s appeal to the Fifth Circuit.
- Court fails to lift injunction: Fifth Circuit denies the Obama administration’s request to restart the executive actions on immigration.
For more information on the expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) or Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA), go to