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Obama’s constitutional immigration reform

Two weeks ago, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals made a mistake in ruling against President Obama’s executive action on immigration reform, one of the only viable immigration reform plans proposed. In a 2–1 ruling, the Court stated that Obama had overreached his executive authority and therefore it was unconstitutional.

The order would provide sanction for five million immigrants under expanded programs such as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and Deferred Action for Parents of Americans, which provides protections for children who were brought here by parents who came here illegally but whose children were born Americans.

However, the fifth circuit, based in Republican dominated Louisiana, has increasingly made this a partisan issue when in reality, Republican icons Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush have made similar moves during their presidencies. Reagan implemented “family fairness” guidelines through executive order in 1987 which also extended protection for minors of parents who had applied for naturalization. In 1990, Bush extended the deferrals to spouses of legal residents. In fact, according to Marshall Fitz, the Director of Immigration Policy at the Center for American Progress, 11 presidents have adopted similar policies 39 times over the past 60 years.

Obama’s policy is also one of the only viable programs suggested. Presidential hopefuls such as Donald Trump have proposed mass deportation of anyone who immigrated to the US illegally, but that simply isn’t a viable option.

In a debate, Trump referred to a botched Eisenhower program called Operation Wetback, in which immigration forces were militarized to deport almost one million people living in the US illegally. The US packed these people into trains and ships, comparing the deportation to the Slave Passage in the eighteenth century. Once they were moved back to Mexico, some were left in the desert without food or water and separated from their families. According to NBC news, in one instance, “88 deportees died from heat stroke” after being dropped off. Other abuses include ordering border patrol agents to shoot anyone who crosses back over the border into the US.

Today, Operation Wetback considered to be a humanitarian tragedy, and another instance of such a program wouldn’t solve anything. For one thing, we have 11 to 12 million people living illegally in our country, and this operation could only deport about a million of these people over eight years.

With Congress not passing any comprehensive immigration reform for the past 10 years, it is crucial that Obama’s immigration reform is enacted. He has legal precedent to issue an executive order for deferrals of immigrants, something that two prominent Republican presidents, Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, have issued, as well as many other previous presidents. It is one of the only workable immigration policies proposed and other options, such as mass deportation, the US has attempted and failed.