Going solo: Obama keeps reform moving

photo by Douliery/Tribune News Service

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Drilled into the heads of civics and government students from day one is the concept of “separation of powers,” an essential part of the U.S. government. However, during the past two years, the 113th Congress has been less productive than any Congress for the past six decades, according to the Washington Examiner. When Congress does not pass laws, it is only appropriate that the executive branch—namely, President Obama—takes the country’s fate into its own hands. One powerful example of this is Obama’s recent executive order regarding immigration.

There has been an unofficial U.S. policy on immigration for a long time; as long as someone doesn’t commit a major criminal offense, he or she will not be deported. In the executive order, Obama merely officialized this policy. By moving focus away from harmless immigrants, the Department of Homeland Security can move its focus towards more important matters.
“We’re going to keep focusing enforcement resources on actual threats to our security,” Obama said in his address on Nov. 20. “Felons, not families. Criminals, not children. Gang members, not a mother who’s working hard to provide for her kids. We’ll prioritize, just like law enforcement does every day.”

The idea of deporting “felons, not families” was only one part of the executive action. Harsher border control was another. The most controversial element of the order, however, was entitled accountability. This allows up to five million immigrants—people who have lived in the United States for five years and are parents of a U.S. citizen—to stay without fear of deportation for three years at a time. During this three-year period these lawful residents must pay taxes; while they are not citizens, they are still benefiting the government and the country.

Obama’s opponents argue that he has overstepped his bounds and that his authority lies in executing, not creating, the laws. While this may be true, Congress’ lack of action leaves Obama’s executive order completely justified.

“Every president since Eisenhower has taken executive action to address immigration issues,” Virginia U.S. Senator Tim Kaine (D) said.

Additionally, former President George H.W. Bush made a similar order to prevent the separation of families (entitled the “Family Fairness” program), which affected the same portion of the undocumented population as Obama’s, 40 percent.

While conservatives accuse Obama of executive overreach, his actions were warranted. By encouraging stricter border control, he will reduce the number of undocumented immigrants, and by allowing some undocumented immigrants to receive temporary amnesty through tax paying and background checks, he can reduce the number further. The reforms will be beneficial to both the U.S. government and immigrants, as well as opening the door for future congressional actions.