Teachers, scroll all the way down for a short list of key resources in our Teachers’ Toolkit.
- President Obama issued an “executive order” about immigration last week. What is an executive order?
- An executive order is a legally binding set of orders from the president (the Chief Executive) to federal agencies. The federal agencies most impacted by President Obama’s order are the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP)
- An executive order is often ceremonial, such as the establishment of National Newspaper Carrier Appreciation Day.
- An executive order can also have far-reaching consequences. The most famous executive order is probably the Emancipation Proclamation.
- Have other presidents issued executive orders?
- Wait, I thought the U.S. government was a system of checks and balances between the executive, legislative, and judicial branches. What if Congress (legislative branch) or the courts (judicial branch) don’t think an executive order should be implemented?
- judicial branch: Like all legislative regulations, executive orders are subject to judicial review—meaning a court could ultimately strike down the order. For example, following labor disputes, President Harry Truman used an executive order to nationalize steel mills. The Supreme Court struck this down as unconstitutional.
- legislative branch: Congress can pass laws to clarify specific issues that have to do with the executive order. For example, following the 9/11 attacks, Congress granted emergency powers to President George W. Bush.
- What people and organizations does Obama’s immigration order impact? Read about the initiatives here.
- The plan would expand the population eligible for deferred action to those who came to this country (the U.S.) before they were 16 years old and have resided here since 2010. Read more about the. Read more about the policy being expanded here.
- The plan would allow immigrants who are the parents of U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents to apply for temporary relief from deportation—and work permits—if they have been in the U.S. for more than five years.
- The plan would expand visa waivers to the spouses and children of visa-holders and U.S. citizens.
- The plan would “modernize, improve, and clarify” immigration programs.
- The plan would allow applicants to pay for their naturalization fees (about $680) with credit cards.
- According to the Pew Center, the primary beneficiaries will be undocumented Mexican migrants. “[M]ore than half of unauthorized immigrants from Mexico (55%) and Central America (51%) will be eligible for deportation relief under the new or existing programs.”
The law will also impact highly skilled workers with H-1B work visas. “Those on H-1B visas will find it easier to move or change jobs, and more of their spouses can get work visas.”
- Businesses that rely on both high-skilled and low-skilled labor, from Caterpillar to Wendy’s, support immigration reform.
- Foreign-born students in STEM programs may also be allowed to stay an additional 17-months, for a total of 29-months on their “optional practical training” visa.
- When does this law go into effect?
- Best guesses are spring 2015. The official U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website (the group that will be responsible for implementing the law) says: “These initiatives have not yet been implemented, and USCIS is not accepting any requests or applications at this time.”
- Is this a party-line Republican v. Democratic issue?
- Sort of.
- Democrats—including President Obama—tend to support greater immigration reform and amnesty for immigrants who have been in the U.S. for many years. Read the Democratic platform on immigration here—it’s under “Strengthening our Democracy.”
- Republicans tend to support greater immigration enforcement, including deportation and border security. Read the Republican platform on immigration here.
- Businesses invest in both Democratic and Republican candidates, and rely on both skilled and unskilled labor. Take a look at some of the companies involved in the immigration debate here.
- Sort of.
Southern California Public Radio: FAQ: What you need to know about President Obama’s immigration plan
Nat Geo: Immigration resources
Migration Policy Institute: State Immigration Data Profiles
The Free Dictionary: executive order
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services: Executive Actions on Immigration
Democratic National Committee: Democratic National Platform
Republican National Committee: Republican National Platform