Reagan and Bush Sr. Gave Amnesty to Immigrants without going through Congress, so What’s Wrong with Obama Doing the Same?
The uproar in Congress over President Barack Obama’s plan to grant amnesty to millions of immigrants stands in contrast to how lawmakers reacted 30 years ago when two Republican presidents took similar actions.
Obama has discussed ending the threat of deportation for millions of immigrant parents as well as spouses of U.S. citizens and permanent residents. He also wants to expand a program that protects illegal immigrant children from being sent back to their home countries.
With House Republicans having refused to budge on an immigration compromise, Obama has signaled his willingness to adopt the changes without congressional approval. That threat has incensed the GOP, particularly Tea Party members, with some threatening to impeach Obama if he follows through.
“The audacity of this president to think he can completely destroy the rule of law with the stroke of a pen is unfathomable to me,” Representative Steve King (R-Iowa) told the Associated Press (AP). “It is unconstitutional, it is cynical, and it violates the will of the American people.”
Defenders of Obama have pointed out that the president is only doing what Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush did in the 1980s when they granted amnesty to illegal immigrants without the help of Congress.
“There was no political explosion then comparable to the one Republicans are threatening now,” the AP’s Andrew Taylor wrote.
In 1989, the U.S. Senate approved a bill to expand legal status to unauthorized immigrant families. But after the House refused to consider the proposal, Bush used the Immigration and Naturalization Service to establish a “family fairness” policy that mimicked the Senate plan.
“It’s a striking parallel,” Mark Noferi of the pro-immigration American Immigration Council told the AP. “Bush Sr. went big at the time. He protected about 40 percent of the unauthorized population. Back then that was up to 1.5 million. Today that would be about 5 million.”
Obama has offered Republicans a way that would persuade him not to take unilateral executive action on immigration. “Give me a bill that addresses those issues,” he said. “I’ll be the first one to sign it and, metaphorically, I’ll crumple up whatever executive actions that we take and we’ll toss them in the wastebasket.”
To Learn More:
Reagan, Bush Also Acted Alone To Shield Immigrants (by Andrew Taylor, Associated Press)
Executive Order on Immigration Would Ignite a Political Firestorm (by Chris Cillizza, Washington Post)
By Using Executive Order on Immigration, Obama Would Reverse Long-Held Stance (by Michael Shear, New York Times)
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