Administrative Relief Fast Facts

National Immigration Law Center |

  • More than 1,100 immigrants are separated from their families and communities each day through deportations.
  • The Obama administration has both the legal authority and the moral responsibility to prevent tomorrow’s citizens from suffering the consequences of political inaction on Capitol Hill. It can act without congressional assistance by providing what’s known in the legal community as “administrative relief.”
  • “Administrative relief” is based on prosecutorial discretion (the power to make decisions about an immigrant’s ability to remain inthe U.S.) and includes various forms of temporary relief from deportation and work authorization.
  • The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) can expand its prosecutorial discretion guidelines. Currently, DHS can postpone, suspend or stop deportation proceedings, release a person from detention, or lower the priority of a case that does not serve enforcement interests. DHS also can grant work authorization and should expand the eligible categories to include people whose removal cases have been administratively closed.
Deferred action U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security (DHS) authorizes a
non–U.S. citizen to temporarily stay in the U.S. The
person may apply for a work permit during the
temporary status. Deferred action is decided on
a case-by-case basis.
The executive branch’s longstanding
prosecutorial discretion power was
publicly revealed during the immigration
case of John Lennon. DHS also has
legislative authority to execute immigration
laws, and deferred action is referenced in
the Immigration & Nationality Act.
This is up to DHS, but generally, a
person must demonstrate positive
factors. A salient example is the
granting of deferred action through
the Deferred Action for Childhood
Arrivals (DACA) program.
Deferred enforced
departure (DED)
Similar to deferred action, but usually used for people
from countries that are experiencing conditions such
as a natural disaster or armed conflict. People
covered by DED are not subject to removal from the
U.S. for a designated period of time and may obtain
a work permit.
The legal authority for DED is
derived from the executive branch’s
general powers to conduct foreign
relations and enforce immigration laws.
DED has been limited to nationals from
certain countries, such as Liberians,
4 Chinese nationals in 1990,
Salvadorans, Persian Gulf evacuees,
and Haitian parolees or applicants for
asylum before Dec. 31, 1995
Temporary protected
status (TPS)
Countries are designated for TPS when conditions in
those countries temporarily prevent their nationals from
returning safely (such as a natural disaster, armed
conflict, or “extraordinary and temporary condition”), or
if a country cannot handle the return of its nationals.
Currently, there are eight TPS countries (El Salvador,
Haiti, Honduras, Nicaragua, Somalia, Sudan, South
Sudan, and Syria), but DHS can expand the list. Work
permit is available.
Included in the Immigration
& Nationality Act since 1990.
Nationals from the designated countries
who meet the criteria specified in the
country’s TPS designation. Haitians
were granted TPS in 2010 as a result of
an earthquake that killed 220,000 people.
President Obama should do the same for
Filipinos, as a result of the devastating
impact of Typhoon Haiyan in 2013.
Parole DHS grants temporary parole —without formally
determining whether to admit a person into the U.S. —
on a case-by-case basis for urgent humanitarian
purposes or significant public benefit. “Parole in place”
is for people already physically in the U.S. Work permit
is available.
Included in the Immigration
& Nationality Act.
Granted on an individual basis. In 2010
the Obama administration began a
policy of granting parole to spouses,
parents, and children of military members.
Temporarily stops removal proceedings by closing a
person’s case and removing it from the court’s hearings
calendar; does not permanently end the removal
process. Person is not eligible for work permit. DHS
could make much greater use of this process.8
The legal authority for administrative
closure isinherent in the court’s power
to control its own docket and is
supported by case law.
People who are in removal proceedings.
DHS could expand its use, for example,
for persons who have U.S. citizen children
or who take care of a person with
Stay of
Blocks U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement
(ICE) from deporting someone, even if the person is
subject to a deportation order. The application for a
stay of deportation considers humanitarian and
foreign policy concerns and other factors. The person
is not eligible for a work permit.
Included in the Immigration
& Nationality Act.
People who are under an order of
removal order. For example, the
deportation of Steve Li, a college student,
was halted after a public campaign
highlighted his lack of ties to his birth
country of Peru.
Order of supervision In cases in which people with final removal orders
cannot be deported to their home countries, ICE
can issue an order of supervision to release them
from detention. Work permit is available.
Included in the Immigration
& Nationality Act.
People who are under removal orders.
For example, under an order of
supervision ICE releases from detention
people who are from Laos because Laos
does not accept deportees. The only
alternative for such people would be
indefinite detention.