Prior to Obama’s immigration announcement on November 20, most estimates of the number of individuals that would benefit from his executive action included a count for the parents of those deemed eligible for DACA, the deferred action program that Obama announced in 2012 for kids who had entered the U.S. prior to their 16th birthday.
Noticeably missing from the list of individuals who will benefit as a result of Obama’s actions? The parents of those who have been approved under DACA.
Despite Obama’s ability to shield an estimated 5 million individuals from deportation, he was not able to include all the categories of people he sought to, per the legal advice of White House Counsel.
In a memo dated November 19, White House counsel found that expanding the deferred action program for DACA parents would be an impermissible exercise by the Department of Homeland Security, under which U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and Customs and Border Protection operate.
The rationale hinges on the fact that the 630,000 individuals who have been approved under DACA through the end 2014’s fiscal year have no legal status in the U.S., nor do their parents. While DACA-eligible individuals may remain in the U.S. under Obama, there is no guarantee that their grant to stay is unlimited.
Parents of DACA-eligible individuals do not have any special prospect of obtaining a visa in order to obtain lawful status, either.
While immigration laws show a concern for keeping the family unit together, the concern extends only to those who have family members with some form of legal status, according to White House Counsel. An estimated 4.1 million parents of children with legal status (citizens or lawful permanent residents) were protected from deportation and made eligible for work permits assuming they’ve been in the country for at least five years.