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In an effort to keep DHS.gov current, the archive contains outdated information that may not reflect current policy or programs.

An Open Letter Concerning Illegal Migration into the United States

Release Date: January 21, 2015

For Immediate Release
DHS Press Office
Contact: 202-282-8010

In November President Obama announced a series of executive actions to fix the broken immigration system in this country. In December, the President announced that the United States government will begin a process of normalizing relations with Cuba. Both these actions are bold and historic changes to U.S. government policy. However, neither means a change in this government’s policy toward illegal migration. It is still the case that our borders are not open to illegal migration. In fact, we are taking additional measures to prevent illegal migration, now and in the future.

One of the executive actions President Obama announced on November 20 was a new program for certain undocumented people who have lived in this country for years to come out of the shadows, be accountable, and become taxpayers. We are developing this program now and will be accepting applications in the near future. But, it is important to know that this new program is only for those undocumented people who have lived in this country for five years, who have committed no serious crimes, and who have children who are either U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents in this country. This new program is not available for someone who came less than five years ago or comes here illegally in the future. Further, those who assist family members or others in entering the country illegally risk being removed from the program.   

In fact, the President’s new executive actions put added emphasis on the removal and return of individuals who are apprehended at the U.S. border or who came here illegally at any time after January 1, 2014. As a result of our executive actions, it is now more likely that if you come here illegally, you will be apprehended, detained, and turned back in accordance with our laws.

At the same time, the United States government is creating an alternative, lawful path for children at risk of harm in Central America to come to the United States: if you are an adult lawfully in the United States, you may apply to bring your child from Guatemala, El Salvador or Honduras to the United States, provided the child can qualify for refugee or parole status under our laws. Parents in the United States can now file a form with the Department of State to request a refugee interview of their child in Central America. More information about this program can be obtained at http://www.state.gov/j/prm/releases/factsheets/2014/234067.htm.

Children in Central America looking for family and a safer life in the United States must be encouraged to take a lawful, safe path, and discouraged from the unlawful, dangerous path through Mexico, in the hands of a criminal smuggling organization. Last summer I personally saw hundreds of children who made that journey. It brought tears to my eyes. No child should ever face that ordeal; it is not for children.

Finally, the President also took historic steps to chart a new course in our relationship with Cuba and empower the Cuban people. But, the eventual establishment of diplomatic relations with Cuba does not mean a change in our current immigration policy toward Cuba, reflected in the so-called “Wet Foot/Dry Foot” policy or the Cuban Adjustment Act. Here again, we continue to seek to promote safe, legal and orderly migration from Cuba under our Migration Accords and deter dangerous unlawful migration from Cuba. We will continue to return to Cuba those migrants interdicted at sea attempting to come to this country illegally. For this purpose, we have recently sent additional Coast Guard cutters to aggressively patrol the Caribbean and Florida Straits to interdict migrants traveling from Cuba or Haiti to the United States by water. As a result, it is now more likely that if you attempt to come to the United States illegally from Cuba or Haiti you will be interdicted and returned in accordance with our laws. 

It is important for the public to understand the President’s executive actions, including who will qualify for these programs and who will not. We will continue to secure our borders, and promote a legal and safe system of immigration to this country.

Jeh C. Johnson
Secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security

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Last Updated: 09/21/2018
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