President Barack Obama announced in November a series of executive actions that could, among other things, result in as many as 4 million unauthorized immigrants avoiding deportation. Here are five elements of the plan that, if they move forward, are likely to have an impact on states and localities:
- Expanded options for deferred action on deportation. Millions of additional unauthorized immigrants may be eligible to avoid deportation if they meet the requirements of the expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program or the newly created Deferred Action for Parental Accountability (DAPA) program. DACA allows qualified young people who came to this country as children, to temporarily avoid deportation, and DAPA focuses on certain parents of U.S. citizens or permanent resident children. A previous Pew analysis shows that state and local governments often play major roles in implementing such programs, including outreach, documentation, education, and protection from fraudulent legal service providers.
- New immigration enforcement tools. The new federal Priority Enforcement Program (PEP) will replace the Secure Communities Program. It will continue to share fingerprint information between levels of government but will place a priority on immigrants convicted of crimes. Requests from the federal government that state or local officials hold immigrants until they are taken into federal custody—known as immigration detainers—will be replaced by requests for notice of immigrants’ pending releases. Going forward, federal requests for state or local authorities to detain individuals for extended periods will occur only in special circumstances.
- Efforts to promote U.S. citizenship. The federal government will collaborate with state and local governments to launch a campaign to provide information on U.S. citizenship and the naturalization process. The campaign will target the 10 states with the largest populations of lawful permanent residents eligible for citizenship: Arizona, California, Florida, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Texas, Virginia, and Washington.
- Steps to foster immigrant integration. A planned White House Task Force on New Americans will work with state and local officials to identify best practices for integrating immigrants into communities and consider how to expand and replicate successful models. The task force will collaborate with state and local entities to “measure and strengthen equitable access to services and programs for new Americans consistent with applicable law.”
- Recommendations for changes to the legal immigration system. The federal government will consult with state and local business and labor leaders, public officials, and others to develop recommendations to streamline and improve the legal immigration system.
Policymakers at all levels of government have choices in how they respond to federal executive actions on immigration. Understanding how these actions are likely to affect states and localities will help inform those choices.