According to a new report by the American Immigration Council (AIC), ever since the United States Congress first passed a comprehensive immigration law in 1952, every one of the 11 U.S. Presidents since have used their legal authority to take executive action on immigration.
This report — as well as a handy “By the Numbers” summary from the Center for American Progress — shows how every president since Dwight Eisenhower has taken executive action to address unanticipated situations or fill gaps in legislation by allowing certain individuals to temporarily enter or stay in the U.S. when it serves the nation’s interests.
There are 39 examples of immigration relief granted by each president and, according to the AIC, all shared common attributes of executive decisions that are similar to our current situation: “Several were large-scale actions potentially affecting hundreds of thousands or millions of immigrants. Some presidents focused on the necessity of keeping families together. And other presidents acknowledged the absurdity of trying to deport people for whom major legislation in Congress was pending.”
With President Obama’s recent announcement that he will take executive action on immigration later this year, it is clear that he not only has broad legal authority to do so, but that he would be following nearly 60 years of precedent.
You can read the report and view the table of executive action on immigration since 1956 here.
See the Center for American Progress summary, noting that 12.7 is the median years of residence in the U.S. among today’s undocumented immigrant population, and that more than one in three adult undocumented immigrants have U.S. citizen children.