Although President Obama has been hit with plenty of accusations of overreach after announcing his executive actions on immigration in November, other U.S. presidents have likewise used their position to tweak the country’s immigration laws. Democratic and Republican presidents alike have bypassed the legislative branch with executive decisions that influence the nation’s immigration flows.
Political publication The Hill reports executive decisions on immigration go back as far as Herbert Hoover, the Republican president in office at the start of the Great Depression. Describing Hoover’s decision to issue immigration visas only to those capable of independence and self support as the “most far-reaching executive decision in the history of American immigration policy,” the president slashed immigration into the country by 90 percent as he attempted to preserve U.S. jobs for Americans.
It’s important to note President Hoover’s official executive immigration stance took the form of a press release, not an executive order. Still, the policy stayed in effect until 1936, the start of Franklin Roosevelt’s second term in the White House. According to reports, this is when FDR acted unilaterally in allowing Jewish holders of temporary visitor visas to stay in the United States.
More recent history has also seen immigration reform on the presidential level coming from the Republican sector. Under President Reagan and both President Bushes, presidential powers were applied to immigration policy. President Clinton on the Democratic side also applied presidential powers on immigration issues.
For President Obama, the November executive action on immigration follows the move he made on immigration in June 2012 with the adoption of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA.) The DACA policy is estimated to affect around 1.5 million undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children. The president’s more recent executive action extends to around 3.9 million undocumented immigrants, according to reports.
At the adoption of DACA, officials called the action an “exercise of discretion within the framework of existing law.” With the executive action the president took on immigration in late 2014, additional groups within the undocumented community are likewise protected on the same rationale.