Impeachable? Here Are 18 Immigration Executive Orders Issued by Recent Republican Presidents

Presidents Eisenhower, Ford, Reagan, Bush and Bush all altered immigration law by executive action, yet none were impeached


Republicans claim that that Pres. Obama’s plan to establish temporary legal status for undocumented immigrants by executive order is illegal.

Read the full report from the American Immigration Council: Executive Grants of Temporary Immigration Relief, 1956-Present

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By executive order, rescinded deportation of 200,000 Nicaraguans.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.


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  • HSans
    November 18, 2014 - 10:30 am | Permalink

    Keep on publicising this information.

    There is too much ignorance and mis-information around.

    November 20, 2014 - 12:25 am | Permalink

    Let’s call a spade a spade though. Obama is about to amnesty 30 to 40 million people, not 4 to 5 million.

    • Madison
      November 20, 2014 - 8:05 am | Permalink

      Nice, Lou. A racist dog whistle and a flagrant, ridiculous lie (there are around 12 million undocumented people in the US) — the 2ist century tea party GOP mindset in one sentence.

  • Joan
    November 20, 2014 - 5:46 am | Permalink

    What happened to Bobby Jindal’s parents, or Marco Rubio’s parents, did they have to leave the country after giving birth to anchor babies?

  • Tony
    November 20, 2014 - 10:35 am | Permalink
  • Les
    November 20, 2014 - 2:56 pm | Permalink

    How do you pay to deport 10 million people?

  • Liz
    November 20, 2014 - 3:14 pm | Permalink

    The number is about 5 million.

  • anonymous
    November 20, 2014 - 4:12 pm | Permalink

    This source doesn’t even have a leg to stand on. All of these actions are to defer deportation of a small, manageable amount of immigrants or make the naturalization process easier, which is a positive thing. “Let’s knock the evil republicans because they want to make the naturalization process easier..” yes, that makes sense. President Obama wants to not inky declare millions and millions of people magically legalized citizens, he also wants to provide them with free health care and education, that legalized taxpayers pay for. People have an issue with these because many of these immigrants are NOT HERE on asylum or on work visas. They are here completely illegally. Also, what messages does that send to legal immigrants who believe in the process and worked damn hard to get through that process? It is a complete slap in the face and tells them there hard work means nothing. So, to the writers of the article, it is different action. And I will and so add, given the election results, how is this order not inadvertently meant to create millions of new members of the democratic party?

  • anonymous
    November 20, 2014 - 4:15 pm | Permalink

    Please excuse my typos. Not mea in to sound uneducated.

  • Earl fm Tenn.
    November 20, 2014 - 5:32 pm | Permalink

    The question is whether it’s legal. Given all the precedent, it certainly is. The House has had since June 2013 to vote on the bipartisan immigration bill that passed the Senate, but the tea party know-nothings opted to do nothing, as usual. Now they’ve convinced Fox watchers it’s all Obama’s fault? Talk about relying on the stupidity of voters!

  • Mike
    November 20, 2014 - 5:44 pm | Permalink

    Sorry, no where in your article do I see ANY PRESIDENT in history taking executive action going AGAINST laws on the books for deportation that effected 5 MILLION people.

    What about the family members in countries who have been waiting years to come over via the normal legal system?

    No one would argue something should be done, however; When the prez. is taking executive action that is far reaching enough to effect 5 million people, on his own unilaterally, without working the way the system is set up. We have problem.

    Civics 101 – Branches are seaperate but equal. We did not elect a king, we elected someone to head the executive branch of government

  • jerry
    November 20, 2014 - 6:05 pm | Permalink

    Did you notice that just about all of the executive orders signed by the Republican Presidents had to do with either “deferring” or allowing political asylum for people from countries under conflict and some of the orders covered just a few thousand people. If you noticed Bush 43 covered military personnel and they forget to mention that Bush 43 tried to pass immigration reform and was shot down by the Democrats because the labor unions were against it.

  • Mike
    November 20, 2014 - 6:23 pm | Permalink

    Yep. Sometimes as a leader you have to put your big boy pants on and take some hits, not get exactly what you want to get legislation passed. Bush knew this, Clinton knew this. If the last bill on immigration passed the senate and stalled in the house. Work with the leadership in the House to make it happen and get it through. Conversation goes like this: ” What do we need to change or add to get this thing through to my desk.” Then negotiate from their.

    As the head of the executive branch you are the man, accountable and have to have a good working relationship with the congress.

    Their is zero working relationship with congress on things that matter it is basically my way or the highway attitude. Their is a system in place and yes it should be hard and tedious and take iterations of bills to get through. Because the other way when 1 person beleives they can rule the entire populace and knows better than he other branches you get crap for policy, laws and head down that dictatorship road.

  • Logan
    November 20, 2014 - 6:54 pm | Permalink

    There is a difference between changing how we enforce the law and just out right changing law. Now I am not saying that everything the Republican presidents did in the past was right. We need to deminish the power of the president regardless of what party he belongs to.

  • Nate
    November 20, 2014 - 7:48 pm | Permalink

    The Constitution gives a President “ZERO POWER TO MAKE or CHANGE LAW ” Now we have an Illegal Alien in the white house “acting like an EMPOROR” !!!

  • Dave
    November 20, 2014 - 8:16 pm | Permalink

    Worst president ever!

  • Pingback: The Current Flap Over Presidential Executive Orders | Crippled Politics

  • jeff guy
    November 20, 2014 - 9:30 pm | Permalink

    To any person denying another human the ability to do the right thing, to assimilate among human immigrants, there is no reasoning. These people are estranged from the human race, under the dominion of thought police.

  • oh come on!
    November 20, 2014 - 10:20 pm | Permalink

    Tallying the numbers given, we’ve got somewhere around 3.1 million people total over the past several decades being DEFERRED or allowed to seek ASYLUM! Not being given amnesty to gain citizenship and skirt the assimilation process in our country! And this doofball wants to allow at LEAST 5 million stay (probably closer to 10+ million).

    You know all those jobs recently created under the Obama administration? I WONDER WHO’S GONNA GET THEM!

  • Earl fm Tenn.
    November 20, 2014 - 10:35 pm | Permalink

    Obama’s executive order is DEFERRING deportations, too, fucktwit. All executive orders can be revoked by the next president. But go on and whine, cry, threaten to impeach him even though everybody knows what you really want to do is lynch him. It don’t matter because facts are facts and the fact is, Obama’s executive order is perfectly legal. Your own St. Ronnie the Dumbass did the same exact thing, as did Dumbya’s Poppy and Dumbya hisself. It’s called “precedent.” If you brainless tea baggers don’t know what that means, google it.

  • Madison
    November 20, 2014 - 11:08 pm | Permalink

    Republicans have only themselves to blame for this executive order.

    As Pres. Obama said:

    “I worked with Congress on a comprehensive fix, and last year [June 2013], 68 Democrats, Republicans, and Independents came together to pass a bipartisan bill in the Senate. It wasn’t perfect. It was a compromise, but it reflected common sense. It would have doubled the number of border patrol agents, while giving undocumented immigrants a pathway to citizenship if they paid a fine, started paying their taxes, and went to the back of the line. And independent experts said that it would help grow our economy and shrink our deficits.

    “Had the House of Representatives allowed that kind of a bill a simple yes-or-no vote, it would have passed with support from both parties, and today it would be the law. But for a year and a half now, Republican leaders in the House have refused to allow that simple vote.”

  • Constitution
    November 20, 2014 - 11:19 pm | Permalink

    If I understand the origin of executive order, it was a power given to the president to handle crisis that came up in between congressional sessions. George Washington wrote an executive order giving instruction to federal officers to prosecute any citizens interfering with the war between England and France. This order was made because congress was out of session. It wasn’t until more “liberal” presidents assumed power that Executive orders became a common thing. Teddy Roosevelt was the first to break 1000 orders. He belived that in “stewardship” theory of executive power, in which the president should do everything that isn’t explicitly forbidden by the Constitution to actively direct the affairs of the nation. Then after him F.D. Roosevelt made 3,500+ orders – everything from seizing warehouses and factories to shutting down all the banks for 4 days for his new deal. The truth is, presidents are human and therefore are subject to making mistakes. Immigration is a problem that should be solved in the congress. Congress was specifically designed to write laws not the executive branch. This was done on purpose to protect citizens from tyrants. To say that it is okay for any president to go against congress is to say you don’t care about personal freedom any more. Freedom is something that comes with great sacrifice and can be taken away with simple neglect.

  • Whatever
    November 20, 2014 - 11:59 pm | Permalink

    So how precisely were their orders illegal? It’s not hypocrisy unless their orders were illegal.

  • Dave
    November 21, 2014 - 12:06 am | Permalink

    First off, I totally agree that we need immigration reform. The problem is with the method, not the legislation. If a republican pres did this, it would be just as bad.

    On the other hand, this article tries to compare small, special cases of deferred deportation with specific reason behind each to a wholesale amnesty of tens of millions. Start looking up these cases and there were great, pressing needs for them.

    If you care about the truth, start from the bottom and look these things up. Searching for ‘Bush 2007 Liberians’ provides, explaining this was something to temporarily help Liberian refugees. Refugees! These weren’t illegals.

    The party continues if you keep looking, and the vast majority of cases are those seeking asylum or refugees. Times when fast action was NEEDED.

    What we should do is pass legislation that prevents the President from exercising this sort of power, regardless of party.

  • Michael Jones
    November 21, 2014 - 1:27 am | Permalink

    The people supporting Obama’s plan should read the following article before they spew off their mouths. Every Republican President referred to in this one sided report is justified for their decisions. The justifications are explained in the article….

  • DiAnn Ervin
    November 21, 2014 - 2:10 am | Permalink

    The key word is that CONGRESS and Reagan, etc.. gave citizenship for whatever reason. Obama is BYPASSING Congress here. That’s the problem, when everyone agrees there’s normally not going to be a gigantic deal made over it. But when you keep bypassing the laws and the will of the People to get your way, that IS a huge problem!

  • kyla
    November 21, 2014 - 2:29 am | Permalink

    First off again with the race card. Its not about the color of his skin sheep. Its about him slowly and smoothly destroying the foundation of the american way to create a socialist dictatorship. If you havent seen the trend then you havent been paying attention

  • chris
    November 21, 2014 - 4:53 am | Permalink

    If you look at the last two presidents they mostly kept people here from specific circumstances not invited 40 million people that have never paid taxes a day in their lives for free health care and they dind send a message hey just make it here illegally and you will be ok this is a farce at best to justify his actions which are inexcusable why cant they come here in due process

  • Kunle
    November 21, 2014 - 4:57 am | Permalink

    While some are on here screaming, why aren’t the same people urging Congress to pass or deny a bill they’ve had sitting on their desks since June, 2013? I see lots of hypocrisy here.

  • Sarah
    November 21, 2014 - 5:23 am | Permalink

    Just because something slid or was let go in the past doesn’t make it right today. It’s like when you’re in class and everyone might have their phone out or might be out of dress code but you’re the only one the teacher calls out. It doesn’t mean you weren’t on your phone or in dress code because everyone else was. I agree that something needs to be done about the immagration systems in America, but trying to stir up trouble and even more social unrest is not the way to do it.

    November 21, 2014 - 5:52 am | Permalink

    Nice try.

    Need all the facts, not just the appearance of them.

    How sad, that the president needs fools to provide cover for his illegal actions, and they obsequiously comply.

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