Obama has broad immigration reform options

US President Barack Obama taking his Oath of Office   2009Jan20The midterm elections in the United States are now just under a month away, which means that the time is also coming for President Obama to make his long-promised moves on immigration reform. Despite the controversy over the prospect of Obama enacting reform using his executive authority, such action would hardly be unprecedented for an American president, according to the Center for American Progress (CAP).  CAP says that every president of the United States has used executive authority on the issue of immigration since 1952, when the very first such comprehensive reform was passed by Congress. US presidents have undertaken no less than 39 executive actions on immigration since 1952’s Immigration and Nationality Act, including Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program in 2012.

The president has “extremely broad discretion” when it comes to deciding how to enforce laws written by Congress, according to Marshall Fitz, CAP’s immigration policy director. “All law enforcement agencies must prioritize the deployment of limited resources, and what the president is contemplating is just that: focusing the agency’s resources on individuals who pose a threat to the safety of our communities and not on people with deep roots and connections to the US,” Fitz insists.

Fitz says it is expected that Obama’s executive action will extend deferred action to millions of low-priority undocumented immigrants and allow them to be lawfully registered; however, he admits that this is no substitute for legislation.