Obama leaves mixed immigration legacy

President Barack Obama’s time in the White House is coming to an end, and regardless of the outcome of the legal fight over his 2014 executive action on immigration reform, he seems set to leave behind a decidedly mixed legacy in regards to the issue.

On the one hand, Obama has already taken a successful executive action by creating the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival in 2012 to protect millions of undocumented immigrants, those who came to the US as legal minors, from being deported. At the same time, however, he has also become the country’s most stringent enforcer of existing immigration laws, far exceeding the amount of deportations carried out under previous administrations, including that of President George W. Bush.

Under the Bush administration, there was a 0.83 percent chance of an undocumented immigrant being deported in a year, a percentage that has risen to 1.48 under Obama. Under the current administration, there has been an enormous increase in immigration laws being enforced against employers who hire undocumented immigrants; 8.3 times more people have been arrested for immigration law violations and 15.5 times more fines were given out than under Bush. There has also been an increase in detentions for undocumented immigrants caught crossing the border.

Whatever the outcome of the current case involving his 2014 executive action, President Obama’s legacy on immigration will be a mixed one, stringently enforcing and even expanding the reach of current immigration laws while simultaneously shielding hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants from the threat of deportation, an apparent contradiction that perhaps underscores the need for Congress to address the challenge of permanent immigration reform.