[Excerpt] On November 20, 2014, President Obama delivered a televised address wherein he broadly described the steps that his administration is taking to “fix” what he has repeatedly described as a “broken immigration system.” Following the President’s address, executive agencies made available intra-agency memoranda and fact sheets detailing specific actions that have already been taken, or will be taken in the future. These actions generally involve either border security, the current unlawfully present population, or future legal immigration.
The announced executive actions—particularly the granting of deferred action and employment authorization to some unlawfully present aliens, discussed below (see “Unlawfully Present Population”)—have revived debate about the executive’s discretionary authority over immigration like that which followed the Administration’s June 2012 announcement of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) initiative. DACA has permitted some unlawfully present aliens who were brought to the United States as children and raised here to obtain temporary relief from removal and, in many cases, employment authorization. Some have argued that DACA constitutes an abdication of the executive’s duty to enforce the laws and runs afoul of specific requirements found in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), among other things. Others, however, have maintained that the DACA initiative is a lawful exercise of the discretionary authority conferred on the executive by the Constitution and federal statute. Similar arguments will likely be made as to the November 2014 actions, which affect a significantly larger number of aliens than DACA.
This report provides the answers to key legal questions related to the various immigration-related actions announced by the Obama Administration on November 20, 2014. Because the various documents outlining these actions have been available for a limited period of time, and additional information is expected to be released in the future, these answers are necessarily preliminary. It is anticipated that the report will be updated to reflect further developments.