Many may wonder how President Obama’s recent immigration action might affect Alabama’s immigration law. First, let’s examine what President Obama did. President Obama directed the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to grant “deferred action” on a case-by-case basis to certain potential DREAM (“Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors”) Act beneficiaries. “Deferred action” means that DHS (or ICE) will not deport or remove, or initiate proceedings to deport or remove, the individual. Those who meet the criteria described below will be eligible to receive deferred action for a period of two years, subject to renewal, and will be eligible to apply for work authorization. Being granted deferred action, however, does not give an alien a path to permanent residence, lawful status, or citizenship.
The following are the minimum criteria these potential DREAM Act beneficiaries will have to meet to benefit from deferred action:
1.) Entered the United States while under the age of 16;
2.) Continuously resided in the United States for at least five years preceding the of the announcement and are currently present in the United States;
3.) Currently enrolled in school, graduated from high school, obtained a general education development certificate, or honorably discharged from the Coast Guard or Armed Forces of the United States;
4.) Not convicted of a felony offense, a significant misdemeanor offense, multiple misdemeanor offenses, or otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety;
5.) Not older than 30 years of age.
Now, this is the important part: the period in which these potential DREAMERS are granted deferred action will be considered a period of stay authorized by the Attorney General. In my opinion, during this period they will be considered to be lawfully present in the United States and thus they may be eligible for certain Federal and State benefits, even though they do not have lawful status.
This deferred status may impact the enforcement and application of Alabama’s immigration law because many sections of the law apply only to those who are not lawfully present in the United States. So, for example, those individuals granted deferred action may be permitted to enroll and attend post-secondary education institutions in Alabama, enter into public records transactions with the state (e.g., apply for or renew a driver’s license or business license), and as mentioned above, be eligible for employment. Time will tell the real impact.