Executive Action on Immigration by U.S. Presidents Has a Long History

executive action by us presidentsMany critics have questioned the president’s authority to use executive action to provide immigration relief for millions of undocumented immigrants currently living in the United States. Last month hundreds of law professors and scholars signed a letter that stated their belief that executive action would be within the legal authority of a U.S. president. Now a recently released report from the American Immigration Council outlines the long history of executive grants of temporary immigration relief from 1956 to the present.

The report demonstrates that every U.S. president since at least 1956 has granted temporary immigration relief of some form.

Here is a summary list of some of the major grants issued by U.S. presidents since 1956:

  • 1956 – President Dwight D. Eisenhower used executive authority to “parole” 923 foreign-born orphans into the custody of U.S. military families seeking to adopt them.
  • 1959-72 – Presidents Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson and Richard Nixon used executive powers to parole into the U.S. a majority of 621,403 Cuban asylum seekers fleeing the Cuban revolution. The Cuban Adjustment Act was pending in Congress at the time.
  • 1976 – President Gerald Ford granted so-called extended voluntary departure to protect from deportation an unknown number of Lebanese who fled Lebanon for the U.S. They also were provided work permission.
  • 1980 – President Jimmy Carter paroled 123,000 Cubans and Haitians into the U.S. during the Mariel boatliff.
  • 1987 – President Ronald Reagan deferred deportation for children in more than 100,000 families if the parents of the families were gaining legal status under the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act, IRCA, that granted legalization to about three million immigrants.
  • 1990 – President George H. Bush used executive powers to defer deportations of up to 1.5 million spouses and children of people legalized under IRCA.
  • 1992 – Presidents George H. Bush and Bill Clinton granted stays of deportation to about 190,000 El Salvadorans whose temporary protected status that allowed them to live and work in the U.S. had expired.
  • 2002 – President George W. Bush expedited naturalization for green card holders who enlisted in the military, eliminating a three year wait. No numbers of how many affected was available.
  • 2012 – President Barack Obama used executive power to defer deportations for up to 1.8 million young immigrants in the U.S. illegally.
Additional Executive Action Resources

DACA-mentation for All
American Immigration Council – DAPA/DACA
DACA Resource Center
DACA Application with Step-by-Step Instructions