President Obama’s Unilateral Action on Immigration Has No Precedent

Editorial Board, Washington Post, December 3, 2014

The White House has defended President Obama’s unilateral decision to legalize the presence of nearly 4 million undocumented immigrants as consistent, even in scope, with the executive actions of previous presidents. In fact, it is increasingly clear that the sweeping magnitude of Mr. Obama’s order is unprecedented.

Central to the administration’s argument is its contention that the 4 million covered by the president’s order–some 36 percent of the estimated undocumented population of 11 million–is in line with the percentage covered by a comparable action by President George H.W. Bush in 1990. At that time, there were about 3.5 million illegal immigrants in the country; Mr. Obama, administration officials and their allies have said that about 1.5 million of them–the spouses and children of previously amnestied immigrants–benefited from Mr. Bush’s move.


However, as The Post’s Glenn Kessler has scrupulously reported, there is every reason to believe that the estimate is wildly exaggerated and based mainly on what appears to have been a misunderstanding at the time.

When the measure was announced, Bush administration officials estimated the number who would be affected at around 100,000. While that was followed by some fuzziness and upward revisions, the actual number affected by the 1990 order was clearly a fraction–perhaps a couple of hundred thousand people, at most–of the 1.5 million that Obama administration officials have cited.

Even the apparent original source of the 1.5 million figure–Gene McNary, who led the Immigration and Naturalization Service at the time–told Mr. Kessler he believes the number is false and was based on a misunderstanding from testimony he gave to Congress. And no underlying data or methodology to justify the 1.5 million figure has been uncovered.

This is not a game of gotcha; facts matter–even in Washington–and so do the numbers. Under close scrutiny it is plain that the White House’s numbers are indefensible. It is similarly plain that the scale of Mr. Obama’s move goes far beyond anything his predecessors attempted.

A responsible Congress would have legislated a fix to the nation’s broken immigration system. It is outrageous that Republican leaders in the House refused to allow a vote on a bill that passed the Senate last year. {snip}

Republicans’ failure to address immigration also does not justify Mr. Obama’s massive unilateral act. Unlike Mr. Bush in 1990, whose much more modest order was in step with legislation recently and subsequently enacted by Congress, Mr. Obama’s move flies in the face of congressional intent–no matter how indefensible that intent looks.

Topics: , ,

Share This

We welcome comments that add information or perspective, and we encourage polite debate. If you log in with a social media account, your comment should appear immediately. If you prefer to remain anonymous, you may comment as a guest, using a name and an e-mail address of convenience. Your comment will be moderated.
  • dd121

    There is no precedent for Obama, either.

  • MekongDelta69

    We’ve never had a black muslim Marxist Dictator-In-Chief either…

    • Yves Vannes

      That’s why he has to go it alone. He needs to make up for centuries of lost time.

    • Sick of it

      I certainly never expected someone from a backwater hole like Indonesia or Kenya to dictate how I would live my life.

  • Luca

    Well, when you elect a radical leftist, bisexual, Muslim, negro what did you expect to get? A George Washington?

    • Bossman

      He believes in freedom and free trade, his family life is very proper, he is much too intelligent to be a Muslim; he’s most likely as an educated man to be an atheist. He is only half “negro.”

      • Tim_in_Indiana

        A half negro is a whole negro, as far as blacks are concerned. There was a reason for the “one drop rule.”

        • Luca

          Don’t feed this troll, he is a mindless, thumb-sucking, leftist who desperately seeks attention of any kind.

      • “He believes in freedom and free trade” – Oh, looks like someone drank the Leftist Kool-Aid.

  • Epiminondas

    The GOP Establishment is snickering behind the curtain.

    • JohnEngelman

      Judge the GOP Establishment by what they achieve on this issue, not by what they say.

  • libertarian1234

    I’m not sure this article by one of Obama’s firmest supporters was not published as a diversion of some sort, like Al’s many meetings at the WH to plan strategies involving protests and riots to act as a cover for what the community organizer is doing now.

    The Post would NEVER abandon the black messiah.

  • See The Future

    Why is he not in jail?

  • Beowald

    Nice to see the Wash Post critical of Obama. I assume they’re triangulating for HRC in 2016. But notice the ritual words “broken immigration system.” It wasn’t broken until 1965.

    I’ve been trying to think of sticker slogans that could make a point without being overtly WN. The idea is to re-frame the debate and make it about somethimg more people are comfortable owning:

    1. Immigration pause.
    2. Balance the budget.
    3. Unemployment to 0.
    4. Resume immigration.

    Of course, we’d never make it past 1…

  • Tarczan

    This white cop agaist poor black stuff is more and more an obvious diversion for O’s amnesty push. Any bad law can be changed, we can even survive a currency collapse, but if we are invaded by millions of Mestizos who will drain us dry there isn’t much we can do.
    Everyone is falling for this diversion.

    • LHathaway

      I can just see that, ‘blacks are treated bad and are such victims, this means we must be nice and let millions of Mexicans into the country (or at least we cant’ say anything about it while it happens). Fear of blacks leads to all kinds of crazy thinking and fuzzy calculation. Those would seem to be two unrelated things, except that immigration is supposedly bad for blacks (be sure and tell them that). In the short term, immigration does give white women other marriage options and may even be good for the black family.

  • fgbrunner3

    Fix immigration? While Obama is president? It cannot be done. Obama will always do the wrong thing.

  • pea_brain_2012

    It’s being reported that obummer never actually signed anything. It is a big fake out that the neocons are perpetuating.

    • Okay, take off the tinfoil hat, and hold my hand while we walk away from the ledge.

      It is true that Obama has not signed an “executive order” relating to his amnesty-by-fiat. And he is not going to, either. Because he doesn’t need to.

      All that he did, which is all he needed to do, is send a memo to Jeh Johnson telling him how not to enforce immigration law. That takes care of the “deferred action” portion. As far as giving the beneficiaries of this “deferred action” work permits in exchange for a $465 per applicant fee (which also was part of DACA), the legal authority for that comes from the 1986 IRCA Act.

      The dirty little secret is that immigration law has only been sparsely enforced ever since Eisenhower left office.