Obama extends deferred immigration program

Children who entered the country illegally but received a two-year work permit under an executive action can now renew their deferred action status for an additional two-year term, the Department of Homeland Security announced Thursday.

More than half a million individuals who were illegally brought to the U.S. as children have taken advantage of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program ordered by President Obama, which exempts participants from deportation proceedings.

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“Despite the acrimony and partisanship that now exists in Washington, almost all of us agree that a child who crossed our border illegally with a parent, or in search of a parent or a better life, was not making an adult choice to break our laws, and should be treated differently than adult law-breakers,” said DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson in a statement.

The first applicants to the program were slated to see their quasi-legal status expire in September. But now, those enrolled in the program can extend their participation if they file a renewal request before the expiration of their current term.

According to the DHS, individuals are eligible to renew as long as they have not left the country since August 2012 without authorization from the government and have continually resided in the U.S.

Applicants also must not have been convicted of a felony, a significant misdemeanor or three or more misdemeanors, or otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety.

The renewal form won’t be cheap, however. A $465 filing fee is required to extend deferred action, and applicants will have to undergo a background check and fingerprint scan.

“By the renewal of DACA, we act in accord with our values and the code of this great Nation. But, the larger task of comprehensive immigration reform still lies ahead," Johnson said.

The decision to extend the DACA program had been telegraphed by the administration for months, but still comes at a politically vulnerable time.

Earlier this week, the White House asked the Pentagon to delay a plan to allow some DACA participants to gain citizenship through military service in the hopes that delaying that executive action would open a window for House Republicans to move on a comprehensive immigration reform bill.

Last month, administration officials also said the DHS would hold off on a review of deportation procedures until late summer. That review was expected to propose ways the administration could slow or halt record deportations of illegal immigrants, possibly by expanding DACA eligibility to include the family members of those who originally qualified.