How Will Obama Handle Immigration?

Young immigrants fill out paperwork. (Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images)
Young immigrants fill out paperwork. (Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images)

(The Root) — Between now and the inauguration on Jan. 21, The Root will be taking a daily look at the president's record on a number of policy issues, including his first-term accomplishments and what many Americans hope to see him accomplish in a second term. Today: immigration. See previous postings in this series here.


Background: As of 2011, according to the Department of Homeland Security there were more than 11 million undocumented immigrants residing in America. During the 2008 campaign President Obama had this to say about immigration policy: "We need immigration reform that will secure our borders, and punish employers who exploit immigrant labor, reform that finally brings the 12 million people who are here illegally out of the shadows by requiring them to take steps to become legal citizens. We must assert our values and reconcile our principles as a nation of immigrants and a nation of laws. That is a priority I will pursue from my very first day."

First-term accomplishments: Despite his promises on the campaign trail, the president was heavily criticized for failing to deliver comprehensive immigration reform during his first term, and for deporting more undocumented immigrants than the Bush administration had in a comparable time period. But in June 2012, President Obama used his executive authority to find a way around the legislative gridlock that had prevented passage of the DREAM Act, a measure intended to provide legal status to the nearly 1.4 million young Americans brought to the country illegally (as long as they have committed no felonies and meet other criteria). His administrative order allowed for permits that would provide many of the same protections and rights the DREAM Act would have. Though some dismissed the move as politically motivated to ensure Latino support in the 2012 race, shortly after his re-election the president went even further.

This week, the president used his executive power to authorize a rule change permitting the Department of Homeland Security to allow undocumented immigrants with a spouse, child or parent who is an American citizen to apply for waivers to grant legal status without having to return to their native country to do so first, as the law now requires.

Second-term hopes: A recent poll found that a majority of Americans now support a path to legal status for undocumented immigrants. Among young Americans, support is around 69 percent. During his first appearance on Meet the Press in three years, the president said of his second-term agenda, "I've said that fixing our broken immigration system is a top priority," he said. "I will introduce legislation in the first year to get that done. I think we have talked about it long enough." Supporters of such reform are hopeful that this term, unlike the last, he is able to get it done.

Tell us what you would like to see President Obama do about illegal immigration during his second term, using the comment box below.

Keli Goff is The Root’s special correspondent. Follow her on Twitter