Is the Department of Homeland Security Headed for a Shutdown?

Feb 25, 2015 | Executive Action

As an immigration lawyer in Miami, any news regarding immigration is especially interesting – both on a personal and a professional level.

Many of you have no doubt been following the threats by Congressional Republicans to  thwart President Obama’s executive actions on immigration by refusing to fund the Department of Homeland Security. The deadline for both sides to reach an agreement is this Friday, February 27th.

First, the good news. If the Congressional Republicans are indeed successful in forcing a shutdown of the Department of Homeland Security, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) stays open. Why? Unlike other parts of the DHS, the USCIS  is funded almost entirely by applicant fees, rather than taxpayer dollars. A government shutdown means that the USCIS still stays open. This means – the USCIS would still be able to process visa, work permit and green card applications.

Now, the bad news. Should there be a shutdown of the DHS, it would certainly cripple several key functions that the DHS handles. For example – if a major snowstorm or earthquake or even terrorist attack hits a city or state, the DHS will not be able to send the state federal funds for recovery.

To recap, the immigration executive action allows for the following (this is by no means an exhaustive summary):

1. The Deferred Action for Parents Program (DAPA)
Under the President’s executive action, parents of undocumented immigrants with U.S. citizen and lawful permanent resident children will be offered a temporary reprieve from deportation. Contrary to what some news blogs would have you believe, DAPA is not an indiscriminate handing out of green cards. Nor is it”amnesty.” Indeed,  the President of the United States does not have the authority to confer legal permanent resident status upon wide swaths of immigrants – only Congress has the authority to do so. Under DAPA, eligible applicants must register, pass criminal background checks and pay taxes.

To qualify an applicant would have to show, among other things, that he/she has been in the U.S. since before January 1, 2010, and is the parent of a citizen or lawful permanent resident born on or before November 20, 2014. If you have any questions about DAPA, I would suggest that you consult with a Miami immigration lawyer to discuss your options.

2. Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Will Be Expanded
Another element of President Obama’s immigration executive action was  to expand the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or DACA program. This bill would provide conditional permanent residency to certain immigrants of good moral character who graduate from U.S. high schools, arrived in the United States as minors, and lived in the country continuously for at least five years prior to the bill’s enactment.To be eligible a DREAMER has to show, among other things, that he/she had arrived before June 15, 2007 and been in the U.S. and under the age of 31 on June 15, 2012. The executive actions would extend the entry requirement to June 1, 2010 and remove the age cap, permitting many more DREAMERs qualify for a temporary 3 year reprieve from deportation.

If you have any questions about DACA, or if you think you or a loved one may be eligible, speak with an immigration attorney in Miami to discuss your options.

3. Expansion of Provisional Family Unity Waivers to Include the Undocumented Spouses Of Lawful Permanent Residents.
If an undocumented immigrant marries a U.S. citizen or lawful resident he/she can get a green card, right? Not necessarily.  Many undocumented immigrants who qualify for a visa must apply at a U.S. consulate abroad, not from within the US. But when they leave the U.S. to apply, another part of the law bans them from returning for up to ten years. Under President Obama’s executive action, the Family Unity Waiver would permit the undocumented spouses of lawful permanent residents (green card holders) to apply for waivers before departing the U.S. This would shield many more American families from the pain of prolonged separation, and also save tax dollars by making the visa processing system more efficient and reducing the burden on government agencies.

If you think would like more information on President Obama’s recent executive action on immigration, please contact Miami immigration attorney The Law Office of Tatiane M. Silva, P.A., Esq. at (305)895-2500 or visit our website at www. mmurraylaw.com .