Obama’s Immigration Action: Three Things to Know

December 4, 2014, 7:00 am (EST)

Obama’s Immigration Action: Three Things to Know
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President Obama’s executive action will protect millions of unauthorized immigrants with children living in the United States. Although ambitious, the action falls short of covering all unauthorized migrants, including the highly skilled. Lawmakers in Congress also remain divided on how to reshape immigration policy. Edward Alden, CFR’s Bernard L. Schwartz senior fellow, offers three things to know about the president’s executive action on immigration.

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Unprecedented Action: The executive action, although likely within the president’s constitutional rights, is unique: it is the first time executive authority has been used to “exempt such a large group of individuals,” says Alden. The action was not well received by some lawmakers; Republicans have criticized the president for overstepping his authority.

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Limited Scope: Of the eleven and a half million unauthorized immigrants estimated to be living in the United States, only half will be affected by the action, which temporarily protects them from deportation and allows them to work legally. The executive action fails to address the long waits for green cards that face many undocumented migrants, and the restrictive quotas for highly-skilled immigrants.

Congressional Reaction: Previous attempts by Congress to pass immigration reform have not been successful. This time, lawmakers in the Republican Party will have to decide whether to “fight the president’s action with every tool at their disposal” or “seize the opportunity and produce an immigration bill of their own,” says Alden.

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