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Looking back on 2014 and ahead to 2015

2014 was a year of ups and downs for immigration. Back in January, Congressional action on immigration reform seemed inevitable: Republicans in the House of Representatives even released a list of their principles for reform which included border security, visas for highly skilled immigrants, improving the E-Verify system, and providing a path to legal permanent residency (although, not citizenship) for certain undocumented immigrants. Unfortunately, not too long after the GOP principles were released the midterm election cycle started to heat up and the backlash from the nativist wing of the party began. Despite support from the US Chamber of Commerce and business minded Republicans, the GOP was never able to agree on an immigration strategy nor bring anything to a vote. During the summer there was the surge of unaccompanied children and families from Central America crossing the southern border, escaping violence and poverty in their home countries. The border crisis, as it came to be known in the media, tested the federal government's ability to handle the influx. Detention centers became over-crowded and reports of abuse by staff or inadequate treatment by immigration officers were prevalent. Immigrant advocates warned that migrants lacked access to legal representation in the detention centers which eroded their rights to due process and ability to argue their cases.

There was some good news on the immigration front towards the end of the year though. Right before Thanksgiving, President Obama announced that he would take executive action to change what he could about our broken immigration system. Included in the President's actions is an expansion of DACA and the implementation of a similar program called Deferred Action for Parental Accountability (DAPA) as well as a new guidelines for deportation priorities and the end of the Secure Communities program. DACA and DAPA recipients will receive relief from deportation and work permits for three years.

The changes that Obama announced won't take effect until 2015. The LA Times has a breakdown of how the President's actions will roll out in the New Year. The Obama administration estimates that about 4 million people will be eligible for some sort of relief, either through DACA or DAPA. Eligible applicants will need to show that they have resided in the United States since 2010 and meet the requirements. For DACA, that means applicants will need to show that they arrived in the United States by the time they were 16 and are a high school graduate or currently enrolled in school. For DAPA, applicants will need to show that they have U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident children and pass a background test.

While 2014 may not have been the immigration year we hope for, 2015 is off to a good start.

"How Obama's immigration plan is expected to roll out". Brian Bennet and Joseph Tanfani. The LA Times. http://www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-year-ahead-immigration-20141230-story.html

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