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Presidents and Executive Action on Immigration


When the President finally acts on his promise, to take immigration reform into his own hands, and invokes executive action to resolve the current immigration quandary as much as his executive powers allow him to resolve it, he'll be in good company. The American Immigration Council reports that every president since 1956 has availed himself of executive action to grant temporary immigration relief in some form.

  • 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 boatlift.
  • 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 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 Obama used executive power to defer deportations for up to 1.8 million young immigrants in the U.S. illegally.
  • 2014 – will you deliver on your promise, Mr. President?

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