President Obama repeatedly claimed that there is presidential precedent for the executive actions he took on immigration. But are the actions Obama announced really the “same kinds of actions” taken by past presidents?
Obama’s use of executive actions to defer deportation for up to 5 million people living in the country illegally relies on similar legal principles used by past presidents, although the issue of presidential authority may ultimately have to be decided in federal court. But there are some fundamental differences between Obama’s actions and those taken by past presidents.
The actions taken by Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush — examples often cited by White House officials — were attempts to address ambiguities in an immigration law that was passed by Congress. Obama’s executive actions are different. They are a response to congressional failure to pass a law, and they affect a far greater number of immigrants currently living in the country illegally.Josh Gerstein reports at Politico:
The political debate over Obama’s unilateral immigration actions is obscuring the more basic question of whether the federal government is actually up to the task of handling a flood of applications from as many as 5 million undocumented immigrants seeking quasi-legal status.
Among the potential problems: the agency that handles immigration paperwork may have to double its capacity for applications very quickly; critics say the potential for fraud increases with a high volume of immigrants in a short amount of time; the wait time for all kinds of immigration approvals could dramatically increase.Julia Edwards reports at Reuters:
U.S. President Barack Obama's executive action easing the threat of deportation for 4.7 million undocumented immigrants is unlikely to cover many of those eligible because of practical hurdles, immigration lawyers said.
High application costs, extensive documentation requirements and lengthy waiting periods for approval sharply reduced participation in a 2012 executive action aimed at undocumented immigrants brought to the United States by their parents as children, and the process is expected to be even more arduous this time around, the lawyers said.
Only 44 percent of the 1.2 million eligible immigrants under the 2012 order had been approved after two years, according to the Migration Policy Institute. And 55 percent of those eligible never completed the application process, according to the nonpartisan, Washington-based think tank.
A $465 filing fee, waiting lists of more than a year and applications requiring biometric screenings and proof of U.S. residency dating to 2007 contributed to the low application rates then, advocates said.