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Obama's Executive Order on Immigration: 5 Things You Should Know

President Obama has announced that he will take executive action to shield millions of undocumented immigrants from deportation.

This executive order, announced in the president's speech to the nation Thursday night, will not grant amnesty or any sort of permanent legal status to those illegal immigrants covered by the action. But as NPR reports, it may prevent up to 5 million immigrants from being deported.

Here are five things that immigrants and their families should know about President Obama's executive immigration order:

1. It Removes the Age Cap for 'Dreamers.'

Those covered by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), the group informally known as "Dreamers," will be expanded under President Obama's executive order. DACA previously allowed those who entered the United States illegally as children under the age of 16 to avoid deportation and receive work permits. But eligibility was limited to only those born after June 15, 1981. This birthdate limitation has been lifted, and even undocumented immigrants who are in their 40s (who were brought here as children) will be able to apply for DACA.

2. It Shields Immigrant Parents From Deportation.

One of the biggest changes that will be made by the president's executive order is the creation of a similar deferred action program for illegal immigrant parents of citizens or green-card holders. The Deferred Action for Parental Accountability (DAPA) will allow eligible parents to avoid deportation if they have been in the country continuously for five years.

3. Felons May Be Deported.

Both the DACA and DAPA initiatives may not be available to those who have committed felonies. In his speech Thursday, President Obama spoke passionately about deporting "felons, not families." Those eligible for DAPA must pass a background check, and those who have felony records may be deported. It is not a felony to be residing in the country illegally.

4. It Does Not Grant a Green Card or Citizenship.

President Obama's executive order will not grant illegal immigrants legal permanent residence (green cards) or citizenship. The president remarked that "only Congress" can do that with legislation.

5. The Changes Are Not Immediate.

According to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the changes made by the President's executive order will not go into effect at least until 2015. Specifically:

  • DACA changes are projected to take effect in late February 2015, while
  • DAPA applications should start being accepted in late May 2015.

These changes have not yet been implemented, so beware of scammers offering to help submit these applications now. Instead, speak to a legitimate immigration attorney about what you can do while President Obama's executive immigration order takes effect.

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