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President’s Executive Actions on Immigration

Yesterday, President Obama announced a series of changes in policy regarding enforcement of immigration requirements.  He believes these changes are in the nature of changes in emphasis under enforcement policy.  For example, the Administration characterized the 2012 Deferred Action Program for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) as an instance of deciding to de-emphasize seeking deportation of certain types aliens (i.e. those brought to the U.S. as minors who have completed high school or served in the military) in order to concentrate resources on deporting criminal aliens.  This interpretation has generated a strong negative reaction among many political leaders and commentators.  There has been much speculation as to how this action will impact various national policy questions in the remainder of 2014 and in the last two years of the President’s term.

The President’s announcement included two changes to current policy that might impact agriculture by offering some agricultural workers temporary legal status, as described in briefing papers provided by the White House:

  • Creating a mechanism that requires certain undocumented immigrants to pass a background check to make sure that they start paying their fair share in taxes.  DHS will create a “new deferred action program for parents of U.S. Citizens or LPRs (permanent residents) who are not enforcement priorities and have been in the country for more than 5 years. Individuals will have the opportunity to request temporary relief from deportation and work authorization for three years at a time if they come forward and register, submit biometric data, pass background checks, pay fees, and show that their child was born before the date of this announcement.” 
  • “Expanding DACA to cover additional DREAMers. Under the initial DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) program, young people who had been in the U.S. for at least five years, came as children, and met specific education and public safety criteria were eligible for temporary relief from deportation so long as they were born after 1981 and entered the country before June 15, 2007. DHS is expanding DACA so that individuals who were brought to this country as children can apply if they entered before January 1, 2010, regardless of how old they are today. Going forward, DACA relief will also be granted for three years.”  

Despite speculation that the President might create some special status for agricultural workers, no specific provision was made for them.  Estimates about how many current illegal aliens might be affected by these changes range from 3 million to 5 million, out of about 11 million illegal aliens currently residing in the U.S.  UFW President Arturo Rodriquez was quoted in media coverage of the President’s announcement offering an estimate that this would impact about 250,000 farm workers nationally, and about 125,000 in California.

The White House’s briefing paper on the President’s announcement is available at this link.