As soon as next week, President Obama will issue his long-promised executive order on immigration, according to a report in the New York Times. The order comes after the failure of the Republican-dominated U.S. House of Representatives to act upon bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform that was passed by the U.S. Senate in 2013.
It’s expected the executive order will be based on the premise that the executive branch can prioritize enforcement efforts. According to the report, the president will direct that such efforts be focused on those who have recently crossed the border illegally, and those who are convicted criminals or threats to national security. Parents of children who are American citizens or legal residents, on the other hand, will be able to obtain legal work documents. Between 2.5 million and 3.3 million people could qualify for this provision, depending on whether the order requires that they have been in the country for 10 years or just five. In all, the order could mean that enforcement is suspended for 5 million people currently in the country illegally, the newspaper reported.
According to Jeff Stone, executive director of the Oregon Association of Nurseries, the expected order is not to be confused with comprehensive reform. It is not a long-term solution to the current, broken immigration system. However, it is something. “Republicans will be quick to criticize any administrative action by this president,” he said. “It doesn’t absolve Congress for not acting the past six years on immigration. In the long term, it would be best if Congress would find the courage to pass comprehensive immigration reform.”
Stone noted that businesses and others have been waiting a very long time for a comprehensive reform measure that secures the borders while also providing an adequate and willing workforce for the industries that need it, including agriculture and hospitality.
“The last time Congress meaningfully addressed immigration reform was in 1986, and Ronald Reagan, a Republican president, signed the bill,” he said. “It was flawed, but it was the best attempt to deal with immigration since the 1950s.”
If anyone is to blame for Obama issuing an executive order, he added, it is Speaker of the House John Boehner. “There were votes in this House to pass comprehensive reform, but Speaker Boehner wouldn’t let it come to a vote,” Stone said. “Absent of Congressional action, a president’s going to do what he thinks best. If Congress had acted, we wouldn’t have needed the recent discussion on Driver’s Cards in Oregon. Now, Oregon has a black mark next to its name, because Congress did not act.”