What Obama's Recent Executive Action Means For Immigration Reform

Most recently, President Barack Obama took a major step in reshaping the U.S. government's priorities on immigration by offering greater protections to certain classes of undocumented immigrants. This conferment of quasi-legal status could signal a farther-reaching reshaping of U.S. immigration policy:

A Brief Overview

According to recent statistics from the Department of Homeland Security, there are approximately 11.4 million undocumented immigrants residing in the U.S., with over half of that number hailing from Mexico. The influx of undocumented immigrants has always been influenced by a combination of labor demands and ongoing strife in originating countries.

Republicans have historically been opposed to immigration reforms that would allow many of the 11.4 million undocumented to legally reside within the U.S., instead preferring to focus on border security and checkpoints. Combined with congressional gridlock and internal political strife, there's been little to no movement on the immigration issue until the president's most recent executive action.

Executive Actions

On November 20, President Obama held a 15 minute address announcing a series of executive actions designed to help improve the status of millions of undocumented immigrants. These actions include:

  • New legal status conferred to undocumented immigrants who are parents of U.S. citizens. This new status will allow approximately 5 million immigrants to work legally and receive Social Security cards and benefits, while deferring deportation proceedings.
  • The end of the Secure Communities program, used by law enforcement to arrest and detain undocumented immigrants on traffic violations and other minor offenses.
  • Protections given to nearly 300,000 undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

How This Will Affect Undocumented Immigrants

The above actions will offer unprecedented protections to nearly half of the 11 million undocumented immigrants currently in the U.S., removing the ever-present specter of deportation and possible separation from family and loved ones. Some speculate that these measures could even spark the beginnings of a movement to offer legal U.S. citizenship to undocumented immigrants.

The president's executive actions also come as a challenge for Republicans staunchly opposed to liberal immigration reform measures. The New York Times speculates that the majority-Republican Congress could respond by withholding upcoming spending bills or even use a government shutdown to undermine those reforms.

It remains to be seen what the long-term effects of President Obama's executive actions are and whether they'll withstand any opposition posed by Republicans. However, these historic actions may help change the lives of those who are currently living in the margins of American society. If you want to know more, try contacting a professional like Lloyd E Bennett with any questions you might have.