Today, U.S. officials said that President Barack Obama is planning to announce a broad overhaul of the national immigration enforcement system to protect up to 5 million undocumented immigrants from deportation.
The official announcement could come as early as next week, and Obama’s actions will be manifold. First, an enforcement memorandum would direct federal law enforcement and judicial agencies to deprioritize the deportation of undocumented immigrants with strong family ties and no criminal history. Another component of the executive order would allow many parents of children who are American citizens or have legal status to obtain legal work documents, thus quelling fears of family separation.
Depending on the strictness of the White House’s final resolution, these protections would be extended to at least 2.5 million of these parents who have been in the country for at least 10 years—and potentially to 3.3 million more who have been in the country for 5 years, plus the 1 million unauthorized immigrant youth. Lastly, Obama’s executive order would expand opportunities for immigrants with high-tech skills, reroute security resources to the border, and revive the immigration enforcement program called Secure Communities.
Earlier this month, just after the U.S. midterm elections tipped the legislative scales in favor of the Republican Party, Obama indicated in a press conference that his government would take action to “improve the functioning of our immigration system.” In anticipation of imminent Republican attempts to thwart any form of executive action—namely Senator Ted Cruz’s plans to block “executive amnesty” in Congress—Obama’s lawyers have based the proposal on the legal precedent that the president has “prosecutorial discretion” in enforcing national law.
Meanwhile, the executive order would draw the support of many pro-immigration advocates and could influence the Latino vote, which is widely projected to have a decisive impact on the 2016 election. Any presidential action could be reversed by Obama’s successor in 2017.