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Congress wouldn't pass a bill to fix the immigration system. So President Obama is doing it himself.

The president's landmark executive action will allow an estimated 5 million undocumented immigrants to apply for deportation relief for a three-year period and seek work permits. Millions of undocumented parents of U.S. citizen and legal-resident children could be shielded from deportation, as well as hundreds of thousands of people brought illegally to the U.S. as minors.

Obama's actions were cheered by Latino activists and Democrats. Republicans in Congress, however, have slammed the program as unconstitutional and vowed to stop it from taking effect.

Here are the details of Obama's plan.


An estimated 3.7 million parents will be eligible for deportation relief and work permits under the plan, according to the Migration Policy Institute. The number of successful applicants, however, will likely be much smaller.

For example, when the president launched a deportation relief program for young people in 2012, experts estimated that 1.2 million were immediately eligible. Roughly two years later, however, only 712,000 have applied to the program, called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). Of those, 581,000 have been approved.

One notable group left out of Obama's action is the parents of these young people, who will not be eligible for deportation relief. The Justice Department determined it would be too broad to be legally justified.


"The proposed deferred action program for parents of DACA recipients would not be a permissible exercise of enforcement discretion," the Office of Legal Counsel wrote in an opinion released Thursday.

Republicans are outraged at Obama's go-it-alone approach to immigration. But that doesn't excuse blatant misinformation, like comments from Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), who said "illiterate" immigrants covered under the action would likely vote in elections.


That's misleading. The action grants temporary deportation relief and work permits. The president is not creating a special path to citizenship—and if you're not a citizen, you can't vote.

The president will create roughly 500,000 new employment-based visas, according to senior White House officials. Part of the plan includes an expansion of temporary work visas for foreign students called "optional practical training." The program allows recent graduates to work legally in the U.S. and the expansion will cater to students in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math.


Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson will develop a new plan to beef up enforcement at the southwest border, but details provided by the White House were sparse.


The president is broadening the scope of his deportation relief program for young people. When it launched in 2012, it was restricted to those born on or after June 16, 1981. Now the program will be open to any person brought to the U.S. before the age of 16, regardless of when he or she was born.

The renewal process for the program will also be changed. Before, applicants needed to re-apply for relief every two years. Going forward, the window will be every three years.


The government will focus on deporting undocumented immigrants who are convicted of serious crimes or deemed to be a national-security risk. Those who crossed the border this year will be considered a "priority for removal."

The White House is sending a message that recent border crossers won't be able to obtain work permits.

“There is no new open door here," a White House official told reporters.


The new deportation relief program will likely carry the same $465 application fee as the existing DACA program, according to Senior White House officials. The program — run by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services — will be fee-funded, which means it won't use taxpayer dollars.

Graphics by Kent Hernández and Gabriella Peñuela.

Jordan Fabian is Fusion's politics editor, writing about campaigns, Congress, immigration, and more. When he's not working, you can find him at the ice rink or at home with his wife, Melissa.


Ted Hesson was formerly the immigration editor at Fusion, covering the issue from Washington, D.C. He also writes about drug laws and (occasionally) baseball. On the side: guitars, urban biking, and fiction.