On November 20, 2014, President Obama announced his executive order, which will bring relief to many undocumented individuals in the United States. Many see Obama’s executive order as a step in the right direction. However, many others don’t see it that way. This past week seventeen states filed a federal lawsuit against President Obama arguing that he violated the “Take Care Clause” of the U.S. Constitution and that the executive order unlawfully placed new burdens on state budgets. The man leading the lawsuit is Attorney General Greg Abbott of Texas, who will take his position as governor of Texas in January. The White House responded to the suit by arguing that President Obama’s executive actions are within his legal authority.
The lawsuit is not surprising. In 2012, when Obama initially announced his executive action for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), he was met with criticism. Legal experts argued that President Obama’s executive action was within his legal authority. Subsequently, Kris Kobach filed a lawsuit arguing that DACA was an abuse of authority. His lawsuit was dismissed on procedural grounds.
President Obama’s executive actions will allow certain parents of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents to seek deferred action. Deferred action is not a pathway to lawful permanent residency or citizenship. It is merely a discretionary determination to defer a removal action of an individual. Deferred action allows individuals to remain in the United States without fear of removal as long as they fulfill certain requirements. It also allows them to seek employment authorization.
Parents aren’t the only ones who will benefit from the executive order. Individuals who previously failed to qualify for DACA because they were 31 years of age or older on June 15, 2012 will now be able to qualify for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). The executive action will also allow individuals who have a lawful permanent resident spouse or parent to apply for a provisional waiver in the United States. These can be considered small victories that will help a lot of families in the United States.
As the states battle with the federal government, one thing remains the same: Obama’s executive order does not solve our broken immigration system. The executive and legislative branches know this. The battle for immigration reform has dragged on for years and will most likely continue through 2015. But at least for now, Obama’s executive actions will allow many families to breathe a little easier.