Kevin Lamarque / Reuters A young boy holds U.S. flags as immigrants and community leaders rally in front of the U.S. Supreme Court to mark the one-year anniversary of President Barack Obama's executive orders on immigration in Washington, November 20, 2015.

Obama and the Court

Executive Orders and the President's Legacy on Immigration

In late January, the Supreme Court announced that it would hear an appeal in United States v. Texas, involving U.S. President Barack Obama's 2014 executive order that would temporarily shield nearly five million undocumented immigrants from deportation. The decision to hear the case, which was widely expected, settled a scuffle over the timing for a review of the measure, with the Obama administration asking for prompt review, so that the issue can be decided before he leaves office, and his opponents hoping to delay a decision until after Obama is gone. Now, with the decision expected by June—just as the Republican and Democratic parties are gearing up for their conventions to nominate their respective presidential candidates—immigration policy promises to remain center stage. The intended beneficiaries of the executive order, meanwhile, still live in the dark.

Obama entered office promising comprehensive immigration reform. But with that seemingly out of reach after 2013, when house Republican leaders blocked a vote on a bipartisan reform bill passed by the Senate, he looked for other options. In November 2014, Obama announced a program to defer deportation for up to five million undocumented immigrants who are parents of U.S. citizens and permanent residents under the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) andan expansion of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) for immigrants who came to the United States as children. More than 680,000 people have been granted deferred action under DACA since its inception in 2012. Neither program provides relief for recently arrived families, including the most recent wave of people fleeing Central America, since those eligible for deferred action must have been in the country for five years. Moreover, the program does not grant permanent amnesty—it only grants temporary relief to families with close ties to the United States.

An anti-deportation protester in the audience shouts during U.S. President Barack Obama's remarks during an event on immigration reform in San Francisco, November 25, 2013.

An anti-deportation protester in the audience shouts during U.S. President Barack Obama's remarks during an event on immigration reform in San Francisco, November 25, 2013.

The backlash to Obama’s executive order was immediate, with Republicans accusing the president of overstepping his authority and bypassing Congress. A coalition of 26 states, mostly Republican-led, filed a suit

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