Amidst the furor on his use of presidential powers to speed up immigration matters, President Barack Obama is not alone in exercising his authority. In 10 instances his predecessors have wielded executive powers in solving immigration situations.
According American Bridge, a progressive research and communications organization, “the Democrats are making the case and that there is political cover and precedent for Pres. Obama to go big on the issue.”
The group highlights 10 instances in which past presidents have used their authority on selective prosecution of immigration actions which in most instances “targeted specific populations mired in complex and dangerous foreign policy crises.
This, according to immigration lawyers are actions that could provide sound principles on which the current administration can act.
The American Bridge memo referred to the immigration policy from the days of President Ronald Reagan through President George W. Bush and highlighted the instances of selective enforcement.
In 1987, the Reagan administration eased immigration standards for 200,000 Nicaraguan exiles fleeing communism in 1987 with the Attorney General instructing the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service “to encourage and expedite Nicaraguan applications for work authorizations” and ordered them to “encourage Nicaraguans whose claims for asylum or withholding of deportation have been denied to reapply for reopening or rehearing.”
In 1990, an executive order from President George H. W. Bush made it easier for Chinese students to stay in the country “should they fear persecution upon being sent back to China”. The action stopped deportation proceedings against these students for nearly four years.
A 1991 executive order, again from Bush, delayed deportation of Kuwaiti residents for four years, following Iraq’s invasion of that country.
In 1993, President Bill Clinton, through an administrative decision, granted an 18-month extension of deferred action departure program affecting Salvadorian immigrants who were fleeing civil war in that country.
President George W. Bush’s executive order in 2001 gave 150,000 Salvadorans “the right to remain in the country 18 more months after their country was hit by an earthquake”.
In 2002 Bush issued an executive order that expedited naturalization proceedings for those green card holders who had enlisted in the United States military, a move that eliminated the three-year waiting period.
President Obama has his executive options in his bad which he can use if Congress fails to pass immigration reform bill this year to grant legal status to millions of undocumented immigrants worldwide.