The United States has always been a nation of immigrants. Between 1870 and 1930, as many as 30 million immigrants entered the country, their descendants forming a significant part of the modern American population. But as high as this number is, it is nothing compared to the way immigration has increased in the decades since: nearly 41 million non-native Americans lived in the U.S. in 2012, a historic high. Due to these increasing numbers, the status of many of these legal and illegal immigrants has become a controversial subject. For this reason, President Barack Obama’s decision to use an executive order to create a new immigration law sent ripples through our society, raising questions about what the future might hold for a large percentage of the population.
Every year, the President consults with Congress to determine the numerical ceiling for refugee admissions; meanwhile, other federal measures, including new immigration laws, are usually halted by partisan conflict. In a speech in Nashville on Tuesday, December 9, Obama cited this as the reason behind his controversial executive order. While twenty states are currently planning a lawsuit to challenge the action, the president stated that it was the only way that Congress would ever enact a new immigration law. Obama’s executive order could defer deportations for more than 4 million undocumented immigrants currently living in the U.S.
Obama said he chose to speak in Nashville because the city has one of the fastest-growing migrant populations in the country: more than half of the area’s growth since 2000 came from non-native Americans. Hispanic, Burmese, Somali and Kurdish immigrants, along with other ethnic groups, currently make up about 12% of the city’s population. Of this number, 50,000 do not have legal status. As a whole, Nashville has been fairly welcoming to this growing faction, creating a variety of services and programs to assist new arrivals. However, listeners still questioned the effects of Obama’s executive order, with many immigrants wondering what would happen when a new, perhaps less sympathetic president entered the White House after they were granted deferred deportation. Obama pointed out that it would not only be impossible to track down the millions of immigrants living in the country, but it would also contradict American values, raising public outcry. While this may sound reassuring to some, it is unlikely that the 11 million immigrants in the U.S. feel as secure.
If you or a loved one is an undocumented immigrant, it may be helpful to talk to an immigration law firm to discuss how the new immigration law may have affected your status. Whether you have concerns about refugee matters or asylum, are experiencing green card complications, or have another issue, a legal professional may be able to help. Contact an immigration attorney today.