On November 20, 2014, President Obama announced his “immigration accountability executive action.” This program includes a number of changes to the immigration system. One central change is to provide temporary relief for the parents of U.S. Citizens and lawful permanent residents. The President created this change, referred to as Deferred Action for Parents (DAP), in order to ensure that millions of U.S. Citizen and lawful permanent resident children will remain unified with their parents. In prior years, many U.S. citizen children have endured the heart break of watching their parents deported and their families torn apart. The President also announced new enforcement policies and steps to improve the adjudication of business and family visas. President Obama did not provide permanent legal status to anyone, nor did he provide a path to citizenship. Instead, the president encouraged Congress to work together to pass a comprehensive bill for Immigration.
Following this announcement, and the resounding victories for Republications in the last election, many Republications have been vocal about finding ways to block the reform. Lawsuits were filed almost immediately in Federal court to challenge the Executive Order. One of these actions in Washington, D.C. was already dismissed and one in Texas is still pending. Additionally, many legislative actions have been proposed. As the Senators and Representatives have returned in the New Year, many are focused on proposing bills to try to stop the Executive Action. Aside from bills specifically proposed to strike back at Obama, the House Republicans strategy is to limit spending for the Department of Homeland Security in order to try to defund the programs. Immigration advocates, however, are not sure of the efficacy of that plan. USCIS is self-funded through filing fees. Additionally, most USCIS officials are considered “essential government personnel.” In the last government shut-down, 85% of USCIS staff were able to report to work because of their essential status. Because the petitions for DACA and DAP would be sent into USCIS, it is uncertain how much, if any, the Republican defunding strategy would work. Additionally, calls that President Obama has overstepped his authority are rebutted by showing that this is a power that most Presidents have exercised in the past, usually in larger degrees than the small steps that President Obama took in November. From 1987 to 1990, President Ronald Regan and George Bush, Sr., both used the same executive authority to protect people from deportation under the Family Fairness actions. Thus, it remains to be seen how much of a dent the Republican-led Congress will make in President Obama’s Executive Action.
What are your thoughts on using executive power to help undocumented immigrants?