Reagan and Bush Sr. Gave Amnesty to Immigrants without going through Congress, so What’s Wrong with Obama Doing the Same?

Tuesday, November 18, 2014
Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush (AP photos)

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.”

-Noel Brinkerhoff


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)



Nancy Legislador 6 years ago
For over 2 yrs,Obama had the House,Senate and the WH. Why didn't he give illegals amnesty?
Erx 7 years ago
What is wrong with you guys Reagan and Bush both went to Congress. They made a call on this team and talked about it as if they were going to do it and then proposed legislation. What the hell's wrong with you idiots?
Don Mashak 8 years ago
I hate liars! LEGISLATION > Immigration Reform and Control ACT of 1986 As I am old enough to have been around then, Congress and the President promised the Amnesty would be ONCE ONLY, they would build a fence and Secure the Borders so AMNESTY would never be needed again. Another Professor Johnathan Gruber "Progressive Government Educated Elite can lie because the masses are too stupid to know whats good for them" moment?
kemw 9 years ago
"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" Thats funny according to S. 358 (101st): Immigration Act of 1990 It Passed House Oct 3,1990 and Agreed to changes by House Oct 27, 1990 NO House did not refused to consider the proposal, go look at the bill, look at the order Passed Senate Jul 13, 1989 Passed House Oct 3,1990 Conference Report Agreed to by Senate Oct 26, 1990 H.Res. 531 (101st)Failed House Oct 26, 1990 Conference Report Agreed to by House Oct 27, 1990 Enacted — Signed by the President Nov 29, 1990 And Reagan's S. 1200 (99th): Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 was passed by voice vote by house Oct 9, 1986. SOOOO I would say Obama would not be doing the same at all If Obama try's to unilateral executive action on immigration. he will probably be impeached. I know he wont try. Obama even stated in 2013 he can't grant amnesty by executive order' he said he does not have that power. Now all of a sudden he does because democrats are LYING lol sorry he needs a passed bill by congress.Just like Reagan and Bush had.

Leave a comment