Politics: Sorry, liberals: Reagan and Bush 41 did not defy Congress with executive amnesty

Image Credit: The Awesome 80s Published by: Dan Calabrese on Wednesday November 19th, 2014

Nice try.
Every time President Obama does something, or is about to do something, that has conservatives up in arms - especially if the protest is based on abuse of his constitutional authority - you can count on the left doing one thing: Finding a supposed example of a past Republican president or presidents doing the exact same thing.
Oh, I guess it was OK when a Republican did it!
They've been all over that argument the last couple of days with Obama's soon-to-be-announced executive order granting amnesty to millions of illegal aliens, claiming that both Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush did the exact same thing. This argument is just clever enough that people who don't really understand the issue or don't really know the history might buy it.
But when you really look into it, as Hans von Spakovsky did today for the Daily Signal, you'll find that the liberals' claim here is a complete load of crap:
In 1986, Congress passed the Immigration and Reform Control Act (IRCA), which provided a general amnesty to almost three million illegal immigrants. According to the Associated Press, Reagan acted unilaterally when his Immigration and Naturalization Service commissioner “announced that minor children of parents granted amnesty by [IRCA] would get protection from deportation.” In fact, in 1987 former Attorney General Ed Meese issued a memorandum allowing the INS to defer deportation where “compelling or humanitarian factors existed” for children of illegal immigrants who had been granted amnesty and, in essence, given green cards and put on a path towards being “naturalized” as citizens. In announcing this policy, Reagan was not defying Congress, but rather carrying out the general intent of Congress which had just passed a blanket amnesty for millions of illegal immigrants.
As the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website itself explains, the children of individuals who become citizens through naturalization have a relatively easy process for also becoming naturalized citizens to avoid breaking up families. And as Mark Krikorian of the Center for Immigration Studies points out, the INS was, as a practical matter, going to “look the other way under certain circumstances with regard to minor children both of whose parents received amnesty.” This was well within the authority delegated to the executive branch and a “legitimate exercise of prosecutorial discretion.”
The Bush administration relaxed these technical requirements under a “Family Fairness” policy to defer deportation of the spouses and children of illegal immigrants who were allowed to stay in this country and seek naturalization through the IRCA amnesty. Shortly thereafter, Bush worked with Congress to pass the Immigration Act of 1990, which made these protections permanent. Significantly, the Bush policy and the 1990 Act affected only a small number of immigrants–about 180,000 people –in comparison to Obama’s past (his 2012 implementation of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival program) and anticipated unilateral actions that will affect millions of immigrants.
Some supporters of Obama’s unilateral actions on immigration have also pointed to other actions by past presidents that allowed immigrants such as Afghans and Nicaraguans to stay in the U.S. But those limited actions were based on very special circumstances such as the Russian invasion of Afghanistan, the Communist-driven civil war in Nicaragua or the Chinese massacre of students in Tiananmen Square that led Bush to granted deferred departure to threatened Chinese nationals.
What Obama is getting ready to do has nothing at all in common with what Reagan or Bush did. Both of these past Republican presidents made fairly run-of-the-mill administrative decisions on the implementation of bills Congress had passed, and that they had signed. That is entirely uncontroversial, and would be so if Obama did it too.
What Obama is proposing to do here is to act action on his own specifically because Congress has not given him authorization to act. That is about as unconstitutional as a thing can be, and it bears no similarity to the examples liberals are trying to put forward as its equivalent.
Nice job on von Spakovsky's part doing the work to expose the fraud that is this argument.
Of course, the most galling thing about all this is that, if Obama really wants immigration reform, he could wait until the new Congress is sworn in and then work with them on it. But he doesn't want that because the new Republican Congress is not going to pass a bill that's designed solely to serve the electoral objectives of Democrats. So suddenly, after getting nothing out of Congress on this score for six years, he suddenly has to act now because it's a huge emergency.
No wonder the left has to go to such ridiculous lengths to construct a rationalization. When you actually take an honest look at what he's about to do, you realize it's completely indefensible.

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