Today is the day that millions of aspiring Americans have been waiting for. The day when President Obama stands up to Congress and states clearly that if they will not do something to pass meaningful immigration reform then he will do what he can through executive orders.
It was announced last night that the President would make a prime-time address announcing his plans to stop the deportations of millions of aspiring Americans seeking citizenship. He will also stop the ripping apart of families, by stopping the deportation of the parents of children who are legal US Citizens.
A group of immigration lawyers from across the country sent a letter to President Obama citing his legal authority to defer deportations through executive actions.
“Our letter confirms that the administration has specific legal authority to use prosecutorial discretion as a tool for protecting an individual or group from deportation,” said Shoba Sivaprasad Wadhia, Samuel Weiss Faculty Scholar at Penn State Law. “This legal authority served as foundation for prosecutorial discretion policy across several administrations. Historically, this policy has been premised on the twin policy goals of managing limited resources and shielding people with compelling situations from removal.”
“This letter reflects a clear, broad, and informed consensus on two key points,” said Hiroshi Motomura, Susan Westerberg Prager Professor at UCLA School of Law. “First, the president has the legal authority, exercising his discretion as the nation’s top immigration prosecutor, to establish enforcement priorities. Second, the president’s lawful discretion includes the authority to set up an orderly system, modeled on DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), for granting temporary relief from deportation.”
“It is well established that the President has the legal authority to end this crisis by granting temporary relief to a broad class of workers,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. “It is also equally established that current enforcement of immigration law is at odds with our American vision of a just society and our values of family, hard work and fairness.”
President Obama’s Executive Order would protect nearly 5 million people currently residing in the United States.
Of course the Republicans were quick to respond to the announcement with more threats to harm real Americans if the President takes action without Congress.
“If ‘Emperor Obama’ ignores the American people and announces an amnesty plan that he himself has said over and over again exceeds his Constitutional authority, he will cement his legacy of lawlessness and ruin the chances for Congressional action on this issue — and many others,” said Boehner spokesman Michael Steel.
Senator Marco Rubio who once championed immigration reform in the Senate now is hints of a government shutdown if the President takes executive action on Immigration.
The Des Moines Register reported that Rep Steven King wants to tie executive action on immigration to funding the government.
“If the president wields his pen and commits that unconstitutional act to legalize millions, I think that becomes something that is nearly political nuclear …,” King said. “I think the public would be mobilized and galvanized and that changes the dynamic of any continuing resolution and how we might deal with that.”
King said if that happens, House-passed legislation on border security, including rolling back the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, order, “becomes a requirement” for a continuing resolution.
Over the last six months conservative pundits has indicated that President Obama’s threat to defer action on deportations is unlawful and would warrant everything from a government shutdown to all out impeachment.
The irony of this is that Republicans have already forgotten that their hero, President Ronald Regan, took similar action to provide amnesty to over 3 million undocumented residents.
“The Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) gave up to 3 million unauthorized immigrants a path to legalization if they had been “continuously” present in the U.S. since January 1, 1982 (The Hill).
The IRCA was not without issues, forcing the government to deport the immediate family members of those who were covered under the new order.
President George H.W. Bush followed up the IRCA with a “family fairness” policy that would close the loophole in the IRCA in turn protecting another 1.5 million aspiring Americans. The combination of the “family fairness” policy and President Reagan’s executive action provided amnesty to over 40% of the undocumented population living in the United States.
President Obama’s proposal to some seems extreme, however it would cover approximately 40% of the undocumented population currently residing in the United States.
The battle is set to begin tonight as President Obama lays out his plan to help millions of aspiring Americans.
The current government funding extension will expire on December 11th and we will have to wait to see if the Republicans will harm millions of Americans in their opposition to the President by completely shutting down the government.