Deferred Action Definition

Deferred Action is an immigration status which the executive branch can grant to illegal immigrants. It is a type of prosecutorial discretionary, limited immigration benefit that allows an individual to remain in the United States for a determined period of time, and it can be revoked at any time. It can be granted to individuals who are in removal proceedings, who have final orders of removal, or who have never been in removal proceedings. Deferred action is determined on a case-by-case basis and only establishes lawful presence. It does not provide legal immigration status or benefits of any kind, but can indefinitely delay deportation. There is no direct path from deferred action to lawful permanent residence or to citizenship. DACA is one type of deferred action.

In the United States administrative law, Deferred Action is an exercise of the executive branch's enforcement discretion and was first publicly defined in a 1975 administrative guidance document published by the Immigration and Naturalization Service.

Major grants of Deferred Action include:

  • Family Fairness Program, a program launched by President Ronald Reagan in 1987, and expanded by President George H. W. Bush in 1990, which granted deferred action to spouses and children of immigrants granted amnesty under the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986
  • Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, a 2012 program launched by President Barack Obama aimed at unauthorized immigrants who arrived in the United States as children
  • Deferred Action for Parental Accountability, a 2014 Obama administration program for immigrants who have citizen or permanent resident children

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