President Barack Obama signed two executive actions on Friday that will suspend the deportation of certain groups of undocumented immigrants by the Department of Homeland Security. He claims the action seeks to deport “felons, not families.” Over 4 million undocumented immigrants—a large portion of whom are the parents of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents—will be eligible for what many are calling “amnesty,” but Obama has preferred to term “accountability.” These immigrants will be allowed to temporarily stay in the U.S. provided they meet certain conditions and pay taxes. The action doesn’t provide citizenship to anyone, however, so the eligible immigrants still won’t receive most citizen benefits.
President Obama’s executive action comes after multiple legislative cycles filled with Congressional inaction on immigration issues. However, many are questioning the action’s legality. While the actions taken by Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush offer some precedent for Obama’s memorandum, the proposed plan differs from its predecessors in scope and in Congressional disapproval. Furthermore, precedence doesn’t imply legitimacy, and for many, such as Senator Ted Cruz, Obama’s unilateral action is unconstitutional. For others, it is simply a legitimate exercise of the executive discretion the President has when it comes to the enforcement of Deportation Laws.