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Know Your Rights
Subject: Immigration
Type: Media Coverage

The President’s Immigration Order: FAQ

President Barack Obama’s executive order on immigration, issued on November 20, is meant to help almost half of the undocumented immigrants in the United States to come out of the shadows and start integrating into American society. How will the Brooklyn community be affected by this action? The Brooklyn Ink put together some frequently asked questions.

Who is affected by the modifications, and what will change for them?

The Pew Center estimates that around 11.7 million undocumented immigrants lived in the United States as of March 2012. Among that group, around five million undocumented immigrants are expected to be able to stay three more years in the United States without fearing deportation, because of the president’s order.

New York State harbors six percent of America’s undocumented immigrants, according to the website migrationpolicy. Natalia Aristizabal, who is an organizer at Make the Road New York, said that there are a lot of mixed-status families in Brooklyn. Before these changes, some members within these families could stay in the U.S., while others feared deportation.

With the reform, however, fewer of these mixed-status families will be anxious about being separated. Parents of American citizens or parents of green card holders who have stayed in the USA for more than five years won’t be deported for the next three years if they register and get a Social Security number. In addition, they will have the right to work.

The executive action also extends the number of people who are eligible for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) program. This program allows undocumented immigrants who entered the United States before their sixteenth birthday to ask for a two-year immunity. Before the order, only undocumented immigrants who were born after 1981 could benefit from this program. Now, the age limit has been removed, so anyone who has entered the United States before January 1, 2010 and meets a few other criteria can be eligible for DACA, which means they won’t be deported for the next three years. Issues faced by parents of children in DACA, however, have not been addressed by this executive order. They still can’t stay without fearing being deported.

Finally, the government intends to make the job conditions more flexible for high-skilled immigrant workers and their spouses. If these workers have an approved Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) application, it will become easier for them to move or change jobs, and their spouses should soon get a work authorization, while they were not able to work before the order.

Estimating the number of people that these measures will affect in Brooklyn is difficult. Anatoly Kissen, a Brooklyn immigration and divorce lawyer, said that the executive order would change the situation of a “whole large category of people” who were previously subject to deportation and who will now be able to stay for three more years.

More specifically, what group of immigrants does this reform most concern in Brooklyn?

Brooklyn is a very diverse borough, with 37.4 percent of its population foreign born (35.9 percent of New York City’s population comes from a foreign country). No nationality group constitutes more than 14 percent of the neighborhood’s foreign-born population, according to New York City Planning. The biggest foreign-born community in Brooklyn is from China (13.7 percent of Brooklyn’s foreign-born population).

According to New York City Planning, the foreign-born population in Brooklyn is divided between non-Hispanic Caribbeans (30.6 percent), Asians (25.4 percent), Europeans (20.4 percent), and Latin Americans (19.8 percent).

The foreign-born population is particularly heavy in South Brooklyn, where 49.3 percent were born outside of the United States.

What are the next steps for immigrants who are eligible to stay for three more years?

They have to register, in order to get a Social Security number and a work permit. For people living in Brooklyn, the closest U.S.

Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) office is the New York Field Office, at 26 Federal Plaza in lower Manhattan. The website to make an appointment is currently having trouble. If you try booking an appointment online recently, this message has been appearing: “At this time, there are no information appointments available for the office in your area. Please try back again later.”

Alternatively, you can try to call USCIS’s New York Field Office at (800) 375 – 5283, to get more information about how to get the right paperwork.

You can also reach the organization Make The Road New York, an advocacy group that helps Latino immigrants. Their Brooklyn office is at 301 Grove Street, and their phone number is (718) 418 – 7690.

Local lawyers who specialize in immigration issues include Anatoly Kissen (2753 Coney Island Ave, phone number: (718) 891 – 0007); the Tsiring Law Firm, P.C. (1713 Sheepshead Bay Road, 2nd floor, phone number: (718) 332 – 5600); and the Law Offices of Marina Shepelsky P.C. (2306 Coney Island Avenue, 2nd floor, phone number: (718) 769 – 6352).

Why might some undocumented immigrants not register?

Lawyer Anatoly Kissen points out that when an undocumented immigrant registers, he complies with the law but is also more easily identifiable. He said that if the next president decides to become tougher on immigration, undocumented immigrants who decided to register would have to make themselves less visible and vulnerable.

What are the next steps for the government?

This order is not a law. Its scope is limited, said Kissen, who hopes that the Congress will eventually issue a “comprehensive” reform. The executive order offers some relief for a short period of time to undocumented immigrants, he said, but it doesn’t put forward a long-term solution.

What parts of the president’s order remain unclear or yet to be defined?

The executive order plans to make it easier for foreign entrepreneurs to come and settle in the United States, as long as they “meet certain criteria for creating jobs, attracting investment, and generating revenue in the U.S.,” according to the White House’s website. These criteria are yet to be detailed. So far, the government simply explained that they would include “income thresholds.”

The government also plans to make some changes on temporary L-1 visas regarding foreign workers who transfer from a company’s office abroad to its American office. The White House’s website says that the Department of Homeland Security will “clarify its guidance” about these visas, but so far has given no more details.

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