John Lennon’s Influence on United States Immigration Law Continues: Deferred Action for Undocumented Youth…Imagine!

On Friday, June 15, 2012, Secretary of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, announced a new policy granting deferred action to some undocumented youth in the United States. Effective immediately, certain young people who were brought to the United States as young children and who do not present a risk to national security or public safety will be considered for relief from deportation or from entering into removal proceedings. Those who qualify will receive “deferred action” for a period of two years, subject to removal, and will be eligible to apply for work authorization.

Individuals who meet the following criteria are now eligible for an exercise of discretion, specifically deferred action, on a case-by-case basis. These include persons who:

1.) Arrived in the United States under the age of sixteen;

2.) Are under the age of thirty;

3.) Have continuously resided in the United States for at least five years
preceding June 15, 2012 and are present in the United States on June 15, 2012;

 4.) Are currently in school, have graduated from high school, have obtained a
general education development certificate, or are honorably discharged veterans of the Coast Guard or Armed Forces of the United States, and

5.) Have not been convicted of a felony offense, a significant misdemeanor offense, multiple misdemeanor offenses, or otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety.

The roots of this momentous grant of relief trace back to Mr. Leon Wildes’ unprecedented breakthrough in the law during his representation of John Lennon. In the Lennon case, Mr. Wildes, the founding partner of the New York immigration law firm Wildes & Weinberg P.C., pioneered the disclosure of the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) practice of de-prioritizing the deportation of certain individuals. There was no public knowledge of this practice until 1974, when the U.S. ordered John Lennon deported and he challenged his removal.

Leon Wildes obtained information about the “Non-Priority Program” through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. After denying the existence of such a program for years, the government was finally ordered to reveal the existence of the program that allowed district directors of INS to permit some deportable aliens to remain in the United States despite their deportability. The program, which existed in the "unpublished blue pages" of the government's Operations Instructions, was renamed “deferred action” in 1975 under new publicly released Operations Instructions.
In handling John Lennon’s immigration case, Wildes demanded the files of the cases selected for “deferred action” cases and the court ordered INS to release 1843 cases of deportable aliens not being removed. Wildes’ claim that Lennon should be granted deferred action was approved. Several weeks after, he was granted lawful permanent residence by the U.S. Court of Appeals.

In a series of publications, Wildes analyzed the factors require for the grant of special treatment by the INS. Wildes was the first to bring to light the factors utilized by the INS to determine whether an individual is of low priority for deportation. As a result of his monumental work, it is now possible for the dreams of thousands of youth to come true.  Leon Wildes thus uncovered the mechanism that forms the basis of the recently enacted “deferred action” policy implemented by the Obama Administration and the Department of Homeland Security.


The advice and guidance I received from Attorney Michael Wildes was superb. He brought tears to the eyes of my clients because it facilitated them getting their children here from Ethiopia....

Noel Myricks

We've been honored to be clients of Mr. Leon Wildes for many years-more recently Mayor Michael Wildes and Mr. Adam Moses have delighted us in carrying forward and indeed expanding the culture of integrity, know how, and unique expertise by which...

Jason Gulida Wong

My O1 renewal was more difficult than the original application but Mr. Wildes and his team were there for me throughout the process with top notch legal advice and courtesy. In the end the firm again delivered the goods and I got my visa renewed desp...

Valentin Schmid
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