On November 20, 2014, President Obama unveiled a major executive action on immigration policy, offering temporary legal status to millions of illegal immigrants, along with an indefinite reprieve from deportation.
What is an Executive Order?
Executive actions are any informal proposals or moves by the president and can be used to describe almost anything the president calls on Congress or his administration to do. But most executive actions carry no legal weight as they can be invalidated by the courts or undone by legislation passed by Congress. A good way to think of executive actions is as a wish list of policies the president would like to see enacted.
Deportations began to increase during President George W. Bush’s second term, and federal law enforcement deported more than 400,000 in 2012, the most ever in one year. Another 369,000 were deported last year. At that rate, it would take more than 30 years to deport all 11.3 million undocumented immigrants currently living in the United States, part of the reason lawmakers and the president say the current system needs reform.
Throughout his presidency, President Obama has been asking Congress to pass legislation that would reform the current immigration system. At the Group of 20 Summit meeting in Brisbane, Australia, President Obama spoke about the need for immigration reform when he said, “Give me a bill that addresses those issues. I’ll be the first one to sign it and, metaphorically, I’ll crumple up whatever executive actions that we take and we’ll toss them in the wastebasket.”
House Speaker, John A. Boehner, has made it clear that Republicans, who control both chambers in Congress next year, have no intention of passing a bill that contains any of the reforms the president is requesting. Even still, President Obama delayed any executive action throughout 2013 and 2014, hoping that House Speaker Boehner would allow a vote on a bipartisan immigration bill that passed the Senate. President Obama decided he should act on his own when it became clear this summer that Boehner had no intention of allowing that vote.
Who is affected?
The executive action will have two key components:
- It will offer a legal reprieve to the undocumented parents of U.S. citizens and permanent residents who have resided in the country for at least five years. The Migration Policy Institute came out with new estimates Wednesday that suggests that about 4 million undocumented immigrants would be directly affected by the action.
- It will expand the 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. The DACA program allowed young immigrants who arrived as children and are currently less than 30 years old, to apply for a deportation deferral. The Executive action will allow immigrants older than 30 years old, as well as more recent arrivals, to receive protection under the DACA program.
The executive action will also include:
- A program to facilitate visas for people who invest in the United States and those who pursue science, technology, engineering and math degrees
- Modifying federal immigrant detention procedures
- Adding resources to strengthen security at the border
What does this mean for the economy?
Comprehensive immigration reform generally would benefit the economy. It would help stabilize the federal debt by encouraging more young workers to come the country, who will pay taxes without drawing on Social Security and Medicare for many years. It would also raise the wages of workers already in the country. The leaders of both parties recognize these facts; “Immigration reform will help our economy,” House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said.
What can Republicans do in response?
Those who oppose this action have numerous options before them. They could shut down the government next month, make rescinding the order a condition of funding the Border Patrol or some other crucial agency, or refuse to consider any presidential nominations except those for “vital national security positions.”
In any case, this executive order isn’t likely to carry the final word on immigration policy. Undocumented immigrants will have to keep waiting to learn if any protections they receive are permanent. If you have any immigration issues, contact the experienced attorneys at Gastelum Law today for a consultation.