Last November, the Obama Administration announced that it will cease enforcement of the immigration laws with respect to some four million undocumented persons. Instead it will award them legal status and work authorizations. Quite apart from whether this is good policy, it is almost certainly bad law.
President Obama ’s unilateral action on immigration angered many in Congress and among the public. With Republicans taking control of Congress, it is tempting to respond aggressively. Instead, a more measured and constructive approach would move the country forward and address the concerns that the voters expressed in the recent election.
Critics of the president’s executive actions on immigration reform go too far when they claim that immigrants are harmful to the US economy. Simplistic appeals to economic logic, gilded with nativist assumptions, hint that the arrival of millions of immigrant workers cannot help but compete for a finite number of American-based jobs.
President Obama is not the first President to use his executive power aggressively. President Lincoln used an Executive Order in 1861 to suspend the writ of habeas corpus. The Supreme Court held that his action was unconstitutional. President Franklin D. Roosevelt attempted to change the composition of the Supreme Court of the United States in 1937 in order to gain favorable votes for his New Deal legislation.
Two weeks after the midterm election of 2014, President Obama announced a series of executive actions on immigration policy in a fifteen-minute televised speech from the White House. The centerpiece was announcing “deferred action” for up to five million undocumented immigrant adults, including work permits and drivers’ licenses for those who register.
The Hoover Institution’s Conte Initiative on Immigration Reform conducts a quarterly survey of leading thinkers. Following President Obama’s recent announcement of executive action, we received responses from 39 experts, some of whom are quoted here.
President Obama announced executive action about how the U.S. would enforce immigration law on November 20, 2014. Reactions were far-ranging, often contradictory. We asked a panel of 39 immigration policy experts to review 20 different statements about Obama’s executive action.
President Obama announced executive action about how the U.S. would enforce immigration law on November 20, 2014, accompanied by multiple official memos from the Department of Homeland Security and other executive branch agencies responsible for enforcement.
On November 20, 2014, President Obama issued a series of memoranda to the cabinet secretaries responsible for overseeing the nation’s immigration system. The actions were expressly not changes in law, although the president proclaimed he had taken actions affecting naturalization, deferred action, parole-in-place, and border security.