Though he didn't discuss the details during his speech, President Obama has issued a series of memos that reveal exactly why unilateral, lawless actions from him aren't worth the paper they're printed on. His planned changes to his Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program illustrate exactly why the criteria illegal aliens must meet to obtain his amnesty are utterly meaningless and can change at any time. In making these changes, Obama highlights the deeply problematic nature of his lawless policymaking.

After Obama decreed his controversial DACA amnesty into existence in 2012, advocates pointed to the supposedly strenuous criteria applicants must meet to obtain the status. Some advocates and journalists even went further, incorrectly claiming that it is only for "children" who are "brought here through no fault of their own" and who are high school graduates with good grades. None of that is true, but it has been part of the effort to advance the narrative that DACA is narrowly defined and meant to benefit only a small number of illegal aliens.

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Under the original terms of DACA, any illegal alien under age 31 as of June 15, 2012 who claims to have entered before age 16 (either on their own volition or in their mother's arms) can receive a two-year amnesty (with a work permit, a Social Security account and other benefits). The have to show they were enrolled in some sort of educational program at the time of applying for DACA, but they could drop out the day after sending in a DACA application and still qualify. The administration explained in their renewal guidelines this summer that being an unemployed dropout would not stop illegal aliens from renewing their DACA status.

Most of the other requirements in DACA also mean very little. For example, the requirement that applicants prove they have "continuously resided in the United States since June 15, 2007, up to the present time" isn't really what it sounds like since "continuous residency" in immigration law generally allows aliens to be absent from the U.S. for up to six months. Similarly, the criminal background provisions in DACA give a pass to applicants who have committed multiple misdemeanors like petty theft, possession of drug paraphernalia, public intoxication, vandalism, etc.

But Obama's latest announcement has changed many of these guidelines and throws all of them into doubt. Under the new scheme, Obama has eliminated the age cap so that DACA will benefit illegal aliens "regardless of how old they were in June 2012 or are today." The age cap of 31 "will no longer apply". Never again should the media or advocates refer to this lawless program as one for children.

Additionally, though the original DACA resulted in a renewable two-year amnesty and work permits that lasted just as long, Obama's new scheme extends the period to three years. If not stopped by Congress, Obama and future presidents can simply extend it to four years, or five years or 15 years. This is the nature of lawless, unilateral decrees like DACA.

Furthermore, DACA originally required applicants to prove they were inside the United States since June 15, 2007, but Obama changed it to Jan. 1, 2010, thereby broadening the scope of eligible illegal aliens. Illegal aliens who entered perhaps in response to the original DACA will now be eligible. Over 500,000 have already qualified, but that number will grow.

Without any sense of irony, the same memo announcing these lawless changes also announces Obama's plan to expand deferred action to illegal aliens who have a child in the United States and who meet other requirements like being "physically present in the United States on the date of this memorandum" and having resided continuously in the U.S. since January 2010. But why should anyone take these terms seriously? Since the requirements under the original DACA can be expanded with nothing more than Obama's pen, illegal aliens have every reason to believe that Obama will eventually change these new requirements as well.

People around the world are receiving the message that illegal entry into the United States is a legitimate means to obtaining a work permit and likely a permanent stay in the United States. And since people respond to messaging, there's every reason to believe that illegal immigration will increase in response to Obama's latest announcements. And if the numbers don't grow fast enough, President Obama will simply change the terms of his lawless scheme again in any way he chooses.

Feere is the legal policy analyst at the Center for Immigration Studies.