Political Focus: Obama’s Executive Orders on Immigration

Melissa Deatsch

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What’s the issue?

On Jan. 19, the Supreme Court of the United States announced it would consider whether Obama’s executive orders on immigration exceeded his power as president.

These executive orders, originally proposed in late 2014, mainly aim to protect undocumented parents of U.S. citizens and permanent residents who’ve resided in the U.S. for at least five years from deportation.  

The orders also would expand upon a 2012 program, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which allows young immigrants who arrived as children to apply for a deportation deferral.  

The Migration Policy Institute suggests that about four million illegal immigrants would be directly affected by the orders. There are about 3.71 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. with children who are U.S. Citizens or legal permanent residents.  

In addition, 290,000 new illegal immigrants would become eligible for the DACA program.

Why should you care?

Immigration has been one of the most debated topics throughout the presidential primaries. No one can seem to agree on a strategy for the illegal immigrants already here.

Republican primary candidate Donald Trump’s answer is to deport all of them, though logistics and economics would make that difficult. 

According to the Center for American Progress, having to round up all the illegal immigrants and deport them would wind up costing an average of $10,070 per person. Since there are roughly 11.3 million illegal immigrants in the United States, it seems unlikely that all of them can be deported. 

Even fellow Republican candidates are not supporting a mass deportation for non-economic reasons.  

“It’s not embracing American values. And it would tear communities apart. And it would send a signal that we’re not the kind of country that I know America is,” Republican candidate Jeb Bush said in the November Republican debate. 

However, does the president have the power to move forward on immigration reform without the approval of Congress?

These executive orders are Obama’s last chance to have an impact on immigration reform before he leaves office. After spending years in a gridlock with the Republican-dominated Congress on immigration, the president decided it was time to take action by sidestepping them.

If the Supreme Court rules in favor of the Obama Administration, whether those orders are repealed or expanded upon will depend on which side of the debate is voted for in November.  

What are the sides?

Obama’s call to use his power as president to go around Congress has, as one can expect, infuriated Republicans. Since then, tension has only grown with immigration issues at the center of every presidential candidates campaign. 

When the Supreme Court hears the case, they will be searching for the answer to one important question that lower courts haven’t addressed: Do the president’s executive orders violate the Constitution?  

The president is bound in the Constitution to enforce the country’s laws.

His executive orders have been challenged by 26 states and ruled against in the lower courts.

Those courts, in alignment with the Republican viewpoint, felt that these changes would be some of the biggest changes to immigration reform in the U.S.  Because of this, it requires congressional approval.

They feel that these executive orders violate the Administrative Procedures Act, which states how federal agencies can establish regulations.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who is leading the case against the Obama administration, stated in court papers that the president does not have “the power to deem unlawful conduct as lawful.”

However, White House officials said that these steps of action are “consistent with the actions taken by presidents of both parties.”

Because Obama’s presidency is soon to come to an end, his administration had asked the Supreme Court to move quickly.  The case will be heard in April and decided upon at the end of June.