US Immigration Protection for Millions of Illegal Immigrants delayed

Millions of applications were expected to be lodged by illegal immigrants seeking legal immigration status in the US before 18 February 2015. However, U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen in Brownsville, a city along the Texas border with Mexico, issued a temporary court order on Monday 16 February stopping Obama's executive actions from going ahead. This would have benefited some illegal immigrants who came to the US as children (DACA) and illegal immigrant parents of US Citizens or permanent residents (DAPA).

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)

Obama's administration wishes to extend a programme implemented in 2012, known as the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). The programme originally allowed illegal immigrants who arrived in the US as children to remain in the US legally, provided they were born after 1981 and were in the country prior to 2007.

The President further expanded this programme in 2014 under executive action to include children who were in the US before 2010, an action that would benefit an estimated 270,000 additional immigrants. The application process was due to start on February 18th.

Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA)

In addition to DACA, the administration has launched Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA). This programme is for parents illegally in the US of US-born citizen children or of permanent residents in the US, provided they have lived in the country for five years and have no serious criminal convictions.

Any deferred action programme (DAPA) allowing temporary stay for illegal immigrant parents of US citizen children and legal residents will not commence until May 2015 at the earliest. Because of the recent temporary Court Order there may be further delays in this being introduced.

The move to protect five million illegal immigrants from deportation, most of whom are 'undocumented' adult parents of legal residents and citizens, has been severely criticised by Obama's opponents.

Programme Costs

The proposed cost of Mr Obama's plan to help five million of the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants living in the US to stay is expected to reach anywhere between $324 million and $484 million over the next three years according to a letter written by Jen Johnson, the President's homeland security secretary.

Concerns about ability to deal with visa applications

However, many commentators have expressed deep concern about the pressure on the US immigration system as a result of increased applications.

Assuming the new DACA and DAPA does eventually go ahead US Citizenship and Immigration Services are anticipating around 1.3 million applications from people in the first six months, which will increase the workload of an agency that's already dealing with close to 6.3 million applications per year.

US Government Visa Fees

The cost of a DAPA application will be $465 and applications will be processed at a facility in a Washington suburb. 1,000 government staff will be dealing with the applications, assisted by 1,000 private contractors.

It's anticipated that close to 1.9 million applications will be made for the DAPA programme in the first 18 months following its launch.

Visits home by illegal immigrants unlikely

It seems that illegal immigrants will not be able to visit home outside of family emergencies or for the purposes of employment under the DAPA scheme.

This is of great importance to many iillegal immigrants who would like to see family and friends that they may not have seen for many years.

Opposition to immigration reforms

Obama's biggest challenge lies in the House of Representatives, where Republicans have voted to block the President's programmes. There have been attempts to prevent funding of the Department of Homeland Security, which deals with the processing of US visas. As already mentioned a US Judge has at least on a temporary basis prevented reforms from going ahead.