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National Immigration Policy

“Time and time again, Atlantans have rallied in support of our immigrant and foreign-born communities. This support is needed now more than ever,” said Mayor Kasim Reed. “Atlanta is proud to be a welcoming city that stands up for the civil and human rights of every person. I am proud to join the launch of the Safe Cities Network and offer – for the first time in our city’s history – legal defense to individuals facing deportation.”


DACA or “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals” was formed through an executive order by Barrack Obama and allows certain people, or “Dreamers”, who came to the United States illegally as minors to be protected from immediate deportation. Recipients are able to request “consideration of deferred action” for a period of two years which is subject to renewal. According to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services, “Deferred action is a use of prosecutorial discretion to defer removal action against an individual for a certain period of time…Deferred action does not provide lawful status.”  


Requirements for DACA include:

  • You were under 31 years old as of June 15, 2012;
  • You first came to the United States before your 16th birthday;
  • You have lived continuously in the United States from June 15, 2007 until the present;
  • You were physically present in the United States on June 15, 2012 and at the time you apply;
  • You came to the United States without documents before June 15, 2012, or your lawful status expired as of June 15, 2012;
  • You are currently studying, or you graduated from high school or earned a certificate of completion of high school or GED, or have been honorably discharged from the Coast Guard or military (technical and trade school completion also qualifies); and
  • You have NOT been convicted of a felony, certain significant misdemeanors (including a single DUI), or three or more misdemeanors of any kind




Under DAPA or “Deferred Action for Parent Accountability” the undocumented parents of Americans or lawful permanent residents (green card holders) who have lived in the U.S. since January 1, 2010 can apply for permission to work and permission to stay in the U.S. for three years. This new program has the potential to change the lives of over 4 million people.

US Citizenship

In order to qualify for U.S. citizenship through naturalization, an individual must have had LPR status (a green card) for at least five years (or three years if he or she obtained the green card through a U.S.-citizen spouse or through the Violence Against Women Act, VAWA). There are other exceptions including, but not limited to, members of the U.S. military who serve in a time of war or declared hostilities. Applicants for U.S. citizenship must be at least 18-years-old, demonstrate continuous residency, demonstrate “good moral character,” pass English and U.S. history and civics exams (with certain exceptions), and pay an application fee, among other requirements.


The Immigration and Naturalization Act (INA), the body of law governing current immigration policy, provides for an annual worldwide limit of 675,000 permanent immigrants, with certain exceptions for close family members. Lawful permanent residency allows a foreign national to work and live lawfully and permanently in the United States.

Family- based Immigration

Family unification is an important principle governing immigration policy. The family- based immigration category allows U.S. citizens and LPRs to bring certain family members to the United States. Family- based immigrants are admitted either as immediate relatives of U.S. citizens or through the family preference system.

Prospective immigrants under the immediate relatives’ category must meet standard eligibility criteria, and petitioners must meet certain age and financial requirements. Immediate relatives are:

  • spouses of U.S. citizens;
  • unmarried minor children of U.S. citizens (under 21-years-old); and
  • parents of U.S. citizens (petitioner must be at least 21-years-old to petition for a parent).

A limited number of visas are available every year under the family preference system, but prospective immigrants must meet standard eligibility criteria, and petitioners must meet certain age and financial requirements. The preference system includes:

  • adult children (married and unmarried) and brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens (petitioner must be at least 21-years-old to petition for a sibling), and
  • spouses and unmarried children (minor and adult) of LPRs.

Employment- based Immigration

Temporary employment-based visa classifications permit employers to hire and petition for foreign nationals for specific jobs for limited periods. Most temporary workers must work for the employer that petitioned for them and have limited ability to change jobs

Refugees and Asylees

Refugees are admitted to the United States based upon an inability to return to their home countries because of a “well-founded fear of persecution” due to their race, membership in a particular social group, political opinion, religion, or national origin. Refugees apply for admission from outside of the United States, generally from a “transition country” that is outside their home country. The admission of refugees turns on numerous factors, such as the degree of risk they face, membership in a group that is of special concern to the United States (designated yearly by the President of the United States and Congress), and whether or not they have family members in the United States.

Other Humanitarian Relief

Temporary Protected Status (TPS) is granted to people who are in the United States but cannot return to their home country because of “natural disaster,” “extraordinary temporary conditions,” or “ongoing armed conflict.” TPS is granted to a country for six, 12, or 18 months and can be extended beyond that if unsafe conditions in the country persist. TPS does not necessarily lead to LPR status or confer any other immigration status.

Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) provides protection from deportation for individuals whose home countries are unstable, therefore making return dangerous. Unlike TPS, which is authorized by statute, DED is at the discretion of the executive branch. DED does not necessarily lead to LPR status or confer any other immigration status.


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Local Immigration Policy

According to Mayor Kasim Reed, “Our city stands together. We believe the President’s executive orders violate the principles of the U.S. Constitution. We believe these orders promote dangerous public policy, eroding trust between public safety agencies and the communities they serve, which will undermine public safety in the City of Atlanta and nationwide. We believe the courts will agree.”


Employment Checks

Georgia’s law makes it a crime for individuals to seek and/or acquire work using fake identification documents. It imposes severe penalties on violators, including prison time and fines.

Georgia E-Verify Requirements

Georgia requires all employers — including private employers of all sizes — to use E-Verify to verify their workers’ and new hires’ authorization to work.

Driver’s License/ ID Requirements

Georgia requires that all applicants for driver’s licenses provide proof of identity, residency in the state, and citizenship or lawful residence in the U.S. Please refer to Georgia’s Department of Driver’s Services for more information.

Public Benefits Restrictions

Under federal law, illegal immigrants are prohibited from receiving public benefits, although they are allowed to receive emergency services, health care, and other programs that have been identified as “necessary to protect life and safety.” Georgia’s new law also imposes identification requirements on individuals seeking a variety of public benefits, such as food stamps.

Educational Rules and Restrictions

Georgia explicitly prohibits illegal immigrants from paying in-state tuition rates at state schools. Also, a state law strips funding from any state colleges positioned as “sanctuary campuses” for undocumented immigrants.

Voter ID Rules

Georgia is one of a small number of states with some of the most strict voter ID policies in effect. Georgia voters must present a photo ID at the voting booth in order to vote. If unable to provide one of the acceptable forms of photo ID, they can still vote using a provisional ballot but will have to provide a photo ID at the county registrar’s office within three days of the election.