In December of 2012, federal immigration agents were instructed by the Obama administration to let illegal immigrants go instead of detaining them for minor crimes and infractions. This was the first sign that illegal immigrants waiting for the beginning of the promised immigration reform would soon start to feel relief. The current president seems to be moving towards the kind of massive reform that could lead 11 million illegal immigrants to citizenship.
Since August, 300,000 illegal immigrants under the age of 30 have applied for work permits granted to college students and teenagers who are law abiding but were brought to the US as children.
As of January 2013, those patiently waiting for immigration reform are celebrating a new development that will allow families to remain intact and in the US instead of traveling back to their native countries to apply for U.S. residency. Immigrants who have gone through this long and arduous process in the past have experienced months or in some cases, years of time away from their families. In many cases, the separation is devastating and causes financial ruin. The emotional damage is great as well. Families with children had to choose between moving the entire family away from the U.S. or stay at home but be apart.
The Provisional Waiver Rule was announced by Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano on January 2, 2013.
Starting on March 4, 2013, people seeking citizenship will be able to apply for the waiver of inadmissibility to the United States for unlawful presence without leaving the U.S. 20,000 people apply for the waiver each year. It requires U.S. citizens to prove that they will be the victim of extreme hardship should their family member not be able to return to the states.
According to USCIS regulation, "the applicant must be an immediate relative of a U.S. inadmissible only on account of unlawful presence, and demonstrate the denial of the waiver would result in extreme hardship to his or her U.S. citizen spouse or parent."
In some cases, leaving the U.S. to seek permanent residency leaves the immigrant open to a 3 or 10 year bar on re-entry. Families are scared of that possibility and often, the person in question chooses to remain in the U.S. and risk getting caught, and deported.