President Authorizes Deportation Reprieve for Eligible Undocumented Students

The Obama administration has announced a new policy to help eligible undocumented students temporarily avoid deportation. 

The initiative outlines the criteria for undocumented individuals to attain a two-year deferment, subject to renewal, on any action that could lead to deportation, as well as apply for work authorization. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano said in a memo that the order “confers no substantive right, immigration status or pathway to citizenship” and is within the purview of the executive branch; only Congress can confer these rights.

Some members of Congress have proposed, but failed to pass the (Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors) DREAM Act, which would provide a path to citizenship for those who came to the United States when they were 15 or younger and have had a continuous presence in the states for at least five years, have good moral character, graduated from high school or obtained a GED and completed two years of college or military service in good standing. Republicans have proposed similar legislation that would not provide a path to citizenship, but temporary non-immigrant status. 

The Obama administration has directed the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to use administrative authority to grant, on a case-by-case basis, deferred action and work authorization to young people who are not in deportation proceedings and who meet the following criteria:


  1. Came to the United States under the age of 16, and are not currently above the age of 30;
  2. Have continuously resided in the United States for a least five years preceding June 15, 2012 (the date of the memorandum) and are present in the United States on June 15, 2012;
  3. Are currently in school, have graduated from high school, have obtained a general education development certificate, or are honorably discharged veterans of the Coast Guard or Armed Forces of the United States;
  4. Have not been convicted of a felony offense, a significant misdemeanor offense, multiple misdemeanor offenses, or otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety;


With respect to individuals who are encountered by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), or U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the memo states that each agency should immediately exercise their discretion, on an individual basis, in order to prevent low-priority individuals from being placed into removal proceedings or removed from the United States.

Individuals who are currently involved in deportation proceedings and meet the above criteria may be subject to the prosecutorial discretion of the agency.