SACRAMENTO – Tonight, President Obama announced his long-awaited executive actions to provide administrative relief for up to five million undocumented immigrants living in the United States. The Immigration Accountability Executive Actions, in addition to continuing the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, grant the parents of U.S. citizen and Legal Permanent Resident children protection from deportation if they have resided in the country for at least five years. In order to qualify for relief, a background check must be passed and taxes must be paid.
California is home to more than 2.5 million undocumented immigrants. These are students at the top of their class and hardworking individuals making important contributions to the economy. They are all seeking to realize the California dream for their families. As a result of the President’s executive actions, many of these families will now be able to stay together, obtain work and education permits, and not be under the constant threat of deportation.
President Obama’s actions follow precedent set by past presidents. In the last 60 years, 11 presidents have used their legal authority to act on immigration 39 times in order to address the nation’s urgent needs.
Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins stated, “This is a major step forward. I applaud President Obama for using his authority the way other Presidents have to help resolve this crucial issue. California families and businesses need the clarity and stability of comprehensive immigration reform, but Republicans in Congress have been blocking comprehensive immigration reform for far too long. Immigrants are a vital part of California’s economy and culture, and the President’s action recognizes their importance in our society. The Legislature will do what we can to ensure Californians affected by the President’s action have the information they need to move forward free from fear or fraud.”
“I commend President Obama for using his lawful authority to protect millions of hardworking immigrants and their families. In our state we honor immigrants, and we know that when they succeed, California succeeds. Many of these immigrants will now be able to fully participate in the California economy and strengthen our economic growth. Although the executive action taken today is not a final solution, it grants California immigrants some relief from an immigration system that has been broken for too long,” said Senate President pro Tempore Kevin de León.
Reshma Shamasunder, Executive Director of the California Immigrant Policy Center, said, “We applaud the tremendous courage of undocumented community leaders whose bravery and determination moved the President to take action, and we welcome today's deportation relief as a key step on the road to inclusion. Yet, there are many more steps to travel on that road. We will continue to fight to expand this policy until all Californians, including members of the LGBT community, can live free of the threat of detention and deportation. And we urge the President to rethink his approach to our border communities, who for too long have suffered mistreatment and abuse at the hands of unaccountable border patrol agents.”
President of the California Faculty Association Lillian Taiz said, “CFA has a long history of supporting equitable, humane and comprehensive immigration reform that will change the lives of many of our students, their families and community. In the face of years of inaction by the Republican dominated Congress we are delighted that the President has used his executive powers to take this important step toward this goal.”
“After 2 million deportations and 510 days of inaction by the House of Representatives, today we applaud President Obama for utilizing his constitutional power to provide administrative relief to millions of immigrant families. Despite this relief, we know that there are still millions of our loved ones for whom relief was not an option. While we celebrate this step forward, this is not a permanent solution and the American people deserve results.” Angelica Salas, Executive Director, Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA).
“We applaud the President for taking bold action to bring immigrant workers and their families out of the shadows to fully participate in the promise of America,” said California Labor Federation Executive Secretary-Treasurer Art Pulaski. “Opening the American Dream to immigrant families is the morally right course for our country. We urge Congress to follow the President's lead by passing comprehensive immigration reform."
“We welcome President Obama’s long-awaited announcement bringing temporary relief and work authorization to tens of thousands of undocumented Californians, which is a significant advance towards affirming the rights and humanity of all immigrants. We celebrate with those who will benefit from today’s announcement, and will continue to fight for those who are excluded. At the same time, we are troubled by the emphasis on militarization of border communities. We call on the President to restore dignity to this region and respect the due process rights of refugees and asylum seekers,” said Norma Chavez-Peterson, Executive Director of ACLU of San Diego and Imperial Counties.
Recent efforts to overhaul our broken immigration system failed after the Republican-controlled House of Representatives refused to vote on S. 744, which passed the U.S. Senate with bipartisan support in 2013. In the absence of federal immigration reform, California has passed landmark legislation to help improve the lives of immigrants throughout the golden state, including the California Dream Act, the TRUST Act, the Reuniting Immigrant Families Act, the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights, the Safe and Responsible Drivers Act.
“Although President Obama’s announcement is a tremendous win for the immigrant community and the country, almost half of undocumented Californians will be left out. We will not forget about these Californians and must continue to strive for a permanent solution,” said Pro Tem de León.
As we have seen with other changes in immigration policy, unscrupulous actors will attempt to mislead immigrants into applying for benefits that are not yet available. Pro Tem De León and Speaker Atkins urge the immigrant community to be wary of such practices.
If you or someone you know will be affected by this action, here are some important steps you can take:
- Beware of Fraud. Some unscrupulous attorneys and notary publics will try and charge unnecessary and exorbitant fees. Adminrelief.org is a good place to get the straight story. They also have links to other organizations that can provide assistance.
- Set money aside. Applying for legal relief through the official government process may be somewhat more expensive than the current process.
- Gather proof of identity, relationships, and length of time in the United States. Having this information together before applying will speed the process.
- If you have a prior order of removal, consult a reputable attorney to determine your eligibility for the program. Again, adminrelief.org is a good place to help find reputable legal counsel.