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A Recap of Obama’s Immigration Changes

UncleSamThe Obama administration recently announced  changes to the executive branch’s immigration enforcement priorities. Considering that AIER has worked to objectively analyze the distribution and wages of occupations with large shares of highly skilled immigrants, AIER thought it would be fruitful to present a summary of President Obama’s changes to these priorities here. Some of these changes will impact highly skilled workers, while the biggest change will allow 5 million people to work in the country legally.

Deferred Deportation

The largest change to take place by executive order will be deferring the deportation of nearly 5 million unauthorized immigrants. To qualify for this temporary reprieve, immigrants must be parents of U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents who arrived in the U.S. at least five years ago.

Under these orders, applicants who qualify will be able to stay in the U.S. at least until 2017.

An additional estimated 300,000 children, who had been brought to the U.S. illegally, will also qualify for this deferred status. The change will expand an already existing program called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which has already deferred deportation for 600,000 child immigrants.

Streamlined Highly Skilled Migration

Obama also made plans to streamline the process for foreign-born workers and their spouses to enter the U.S. under the highly skilled H-1B visa. Though this particular change will not expand the number of visas, it will grant more opportunities for both foreign-born entrepreneurs as well as foreign-born graduates of science, technology, math, and engineering universities in the U.S.

Silicon Valley’s reaction to these changes in particular has been mixed. Some appreciate the opportunities for entrepreneurs, while others call for more visas for computer technology industries. For more on the highly skilled technology industry, check out AIER’s most recent brief.

Heightened Border Security

The administration’s final change will allocate more resources to heightening border security. This effort will strive to deport immigrants who pose large risks to U.S. national security, such as felons, members of gangs, or other high-risk individuals.

Along these lines, Obama will also change what was formerly known as Secure Communities, a program which enabled local law enforcement agencies to notify Immigration Customs and Enforcement if they suspected they had arrested an unauthorized immigrant. Now, Secure Communities, which will be renamed the Priority Enforcement Program, will only allow law enforcement agencies to notify Customs and Enforcement if the arrested person fits into one of the high risk priority groups.

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