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American Bridge Project Memo Lists Prior Executive Actions on Immigration

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Ahead of President Obama’s anticipated executive announcement on immigration sometime in the next few weeks, Democrats are making the case that there is political cover and precedent for Obama to take action.

Today, the American Bridge released a new memo highlighting 10 instances in which past presidents have used executive action to apply immigration law.  Below are some of those instances (via Huffington Post):

  • The Reagan administration easing immigration standards for 200,000 Nicaraguan exiles fleeing communism in 1987. That year, Attorney General Edwin Meese instructed the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service to ”encourage and expedite Nicaraguan applications for work authorizations” and ordered the service to ”encourage Nicaraguans whose claims for asylum or withholding of deportation have been denied to reapply for reopening or rehearing.”
  • A 1990 executive order from President George H. W. Bush making it easier for Chinese students to stay in the country should they fear persecution upon being sent back to China. The action effectively stopped deportation proceedings against these students for nearly four years.
  • A 1991 executive order, again from Bush, that delayed deportation of Kuwaiti residents for four years, which came following Iraq’s invasion of that country.
  • The Clinton administration’s decision in 1993 to grant an 18-month extension of a deferred action departure program affecting U.S.-based Salvadoran immigrants. The program had been launched to help those fleeing a civil war in that country.
  • A 2001 George W. Bush executive order that gave 150,000 Salvadorans the right to remain in the country 18 more months after their country was hit by an earthquake.
  • And a 2002 Bush executive order that expedited naturalization proceedings for those green card holders who had enlisted in the United States military. The order eliminated the three-year waiting period that had existed up to that point.
  • In 1990, the commissioner of Immigration and Naturalization Service issued a policy to grant deportation relief for spouses and children of those who gained legal status through the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986. That policy could have applied to an estimated 1.5 million people, according to a 2012 report from the nonpartisan Congressional Resource Service.

As Marshall Fitz, the director of immigration policy at the Center for American Progress told HuffPo about the President’s “wide latitude” to apply the law:

Any president … that is ultimately responsible for law enforcement has wide, wide latitude in focusing and channeling resources toward priorities.  You run into a legal authority question, or creating a constitutional crisis between the branches, if the president refuses to enforce a duly-enacted law … but other than that, he’s got extremely wide latitude to prioritize the resources Congress appropriates.

View the full American Bridge memo here or below:

Executive Actions Speak Louder Than Words