The U.S. Immigration Policymaker-in-Chief: The Long History of Executive Authority over Immigration
Adam B. Cox, Author of The President and Immigration Law; Robert A. Kindler Professor of Law, NYU School of Law
Cristina M. Rodríguez, Author of The President and Immigration Law; Leighton Homer Surbeck Professor of Law, Yale Law School
Elena Goldstein, Deputy Bureau Chief, Civil Rights Bureau, New York State Office of the Attorney General
Sarah Pierce, Policy Analyst, Migration Policy Institute
Muzaffar Chishti, MPI Senior Fellow and Director, MPI office at NYU School of Law
The inability of Congress to enact any meaningful legislation on immigration during the past quarter-century has left the United States with a long-outdated immigration system that works for very few, leaving the president with enormous influence and control over U.S. immigration policy. While President Obama’s decision to protect DREAMers via the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program was praised by some as an overdue action amid congressional stalemate, it also was the subject of major legal challenge and was criticized as presidential overreach.
Well into its fourth year, the Trump administration has undertaken more than 400 executive actions on immigration. President Trump has been able to dramatically reshape the U.S. immigration system through regulatory, policy, and programmatic changes, and his executive actions have prompted extensive advocacy and litigation in response.
Is executive action on immigration a recent development? And has it always been as controversial as it seems today? Two leading legal scholars, Adam B. Cox and Cristina M. Rodríguez, tackle this question in their book, The President and Immigration Law (Oxford University Press). In it, they chronicle a long tradition of the president as immigration policymaker in chief. They also examine how the executive branch's discretionary power on law enforcement has become a powerful vehicle for fashioning immigration policy.
This discussion examines the Trump administration’s substantial use of executive power to change the country’s course on immigration, and how the president’s role in immigration policy is a inevitability that should be carefully considered and reimagined in any blueprint for immigration reform or strategy for activism on immigration.