Under the Obama Administration’s new policy, some of the 300,000 immigrants (many of them Philippine nationals) who are currently involved in removal proceedings that do not have any criminal history may be eligible to obtain work authorization and remain in the United States for an indefinite period. However, it remains unclear whether undocumented immigrants who do not have deportation proceedings pending against them may be able to benefit from the change of policy.
U.S. immigration lawyers in the Philippines have been receiving thousands of questions from undocumented immigrants who are not presently in deportation proceedings asking if they could be helped by the new policy. Because the policy clearly applies to individuals who are now involved in deportation proceedings and clear guidance has not been issued as to whether the policy would apply to undocumented immigrants who voluntarily choose to put themselves in deportation cases, such a move by an undocumented immigrant would be unlikely to improve their status.
Philippine-based U.S. Immigration lawyers note that it is unusual for undocumented immigrants to voluntarily place themselves in deportation court because it is very difficult to qualify for a defense that would avoid deportation. However, those who meet the minimum requirements for certain defenses to deportation should consult with a U.S. immigration lawyer in the Philippines or in the U.S. in order to consider available options. Regardless of the decision, immigration lawyers are quick to point out that the announcement by the administration does not provide a green car or permanent status to immigrants facing deportation.
For many undocumented immigrants, having something is better than having nothing at all as having a work permit will allow an individual to obtain a driver’s license and finally come out of the shadow. It is the start of living the “American Dream” and not the “American Nightmare” that so many individuals have been living for decades as a result of failed U.S. immigration policies.