Just when Republicans thought they were going to reign for the next two years in Washington with such a passive and complacent President Obama, as he has been since he took power, the leader, he who promised so much and fulfilled so little, is about to reform immigration laws with just the power of his signature. He is expected to issue an executive order that would benefit nearly five million undocumented immigrants, whether his opponents like it or not.
But in contrast to what many expected and to what pro-immigrant groups are demanding, the new provisions Obama will order, maybe even this week, will not grant permanent legal status, much less open a path to citizenship. However, they will decrease the number of deportations and it has been said that many of those who are here illegally will receive work permits, and in some states they could obtain a driver’s license. The great disappointment will be that they will not be able to travel outside the United States to visit their loved ones, who they have left behind in their countries of origin, one of the greatest yearnings of those who have not left the country in years for fear of not being able to return.
Immigration experts have made clear that although this presidential measure will ease the fear of millions of people who would stop living in the shadows, legislators in the future could change the laws that the president is relying on to issue the order. Whoever takes his place in the White House would also have the right to cancel these new provisions, the details of which are not yet entirely clear.
But the leader of the House, John Boehner, has already said that in case it happens, Republicans will fight this executive order “tooth and nail.” Meanwhile, the president insists he would never issue it if Congress would pass immigration reform. It is expected that the new regulations will mainly benefit parents of U.S. citizens, who have lived here for at least five years, which is an estimated 3.3 million people.
Of course, the president’s enemies are furious and insist that the leader is abusing the power and the oath he made when he reached the White House and that he is granting amnesty to those who broke the law. In previous statements, Obama had insisted he could not stop the deportations or change immigration laws without Congress; in fact, he said back then: “I’m the president of the United States, I’m not the emperor of the United States,” who would be empowered to act on his own. He obviously changed his mind.
Most of the Democrats in Congress are supporting him, but Republicans accuse him of treason and are furious at the possibility of him issuing that order. However, doing so is one of the privileges of his office and one that has been practiced frequently by his predecessors. In fact, Republican presidents have been the ones who have chosen this measure, which does not require congressional approval, more often. George W. Bush issued 291 executive orders; Ronald Reagan, 381. Before them, Theodore Roosevelt did it on 1,081 occasions and Dwight Eisenhower, 484. Barack Obama has done it 182.
If the new measures that Obama has in mind are implemented, they will not apply to those crossing the border in the next months. They will remain subject to deportation. Moreover, the president is expected to propose new and stricter security measures on the border with Mexico.
All this controversy is happening because the right wing insists that the border is still “insecure,” and instead of immigration reform, they want to block all entry of terrorists, people without visas, drugs or contraband, which is unrealistic. They forget that in the course of history there has never been an impenetrable border. It has neither been the Great Wall of China nor the Berlin Wall; much less the so-called Iron Curtain which divided Europe. Meanwhile, the immigration system of this country has not been functioning for a while and is in need of urgent modification.