Republicans claim that that Pres. Obama’s plan to establish temporary legal status for undocumented immigrants by executive order is illegal.
They have issued a series of threats against the president if he signs the order to stand up the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, including blocking the nomination of attorney general nominee Loretta Lynch, shutting down the government again and/or impeaching him.
According to a detailed report from the American Immigration Council, however, presidents have routinely altered immigration policies by executive order, including 18 such changes by five recent Republican presidents — Eisenhower, Ford, Reagan, Bush I and Bush II. None of these presidents was threatened with political reprisal for signing the orders, of course.
Here is an overview based on the AIC report:
Pres. Dwight Eisenhower:
By executive order, circumvented immigration quotas to allow 900 orphans to join their adoptive families in the U.S.
By executive order, allowed 31,000 Hungarian anti-Soviet insurgents to emigrate.
By executive order, allowed 600,000 Cubans fleeing Castro to emigrate. [PDF]
Pres. Gerald Ford:
By executive order, allowed 360,000 refugees, mostly from from Vietnam, to emigrate.
By executive order, allowed 14,000 Lebanese nationals to emigrate.
Pres. Ronald Reagan:
By executive order, allowed 7,000 Polish anti-Communists to emigrate.
Allowed 15,000-plus Ethiopians to emigrate.
By executive order, rescinded deportation of 200,000 Nicaraguans.
By executive order, deferred deportation of undocumented children of 100,000 families. [JSTOR]
George H.W. Bush:
By executive order, deferred deportations of Chinese students.
By executive order, reversed visa denials of 7,000 Soviets, Indochinese.
By executive order, deferred deporations of previously amnestied citizens’ 1.5 million spouses and children.
By executive order, deferred deportation of 2,000 Gulf War evacuees.
By executive order, deferred deportations of 190,000 El Salvadorans.
George W. Bush:
By executive order, expedited naturalization for green-card holders who joined military.
By executive order, deferred deportation of students affected by Hurricane Katrina.
By executive order, enabled 1,500 Cuban physicians to seek asylum at US embassies.
By executive order, deferred deportation of 3,600 Liberians.