In the first presidential primary debate, Donald Trump claimed that Republicans would not be engaging with the immigration debate if it weren’t for his bravado.
“If it weren’t for me, you wouldn’t even be talking about illegal immigration,” he said. “You wouldn’t even be talking about it. This wasn’t a subject that was on anyone’s mind until I brought it up at my announcement.”
Media outlets jumped on the statement, rating the claim as false both because the media had been addressing the issue, but also because other candidates had been grappling with immigration debates as well.
What has received less attention, however, beneath the media frenzy over the 2016 presidential race is the current president’s recent policy moves.
Even though the Senate was able to pass an immigration reform bill in 2013 that was called “the most monumental overhaul of U.S. immigration laws in a generation,” the House rejected it. Since then, congressional action on the subject has largely stalled. Instead, Obama has opted for unilateral executive action to move forward on addressing the nation’s immigration issues.
His first steps included a move in late 2014 to allow immigrants who entered the country illegally more than five years ago, children who are citizens or legal residents, pass a criminal background check, and are willing to pay taxes to stay in the country. In essence, the rule allowed for a larger degree of latitude in issuing waivers for immigrants.
While many Republican excoriated the move and threatened to challenge it, many on the left declared that the rule fell short of addressing the comprehensive issues involved in immigration.
Now, Obama is taking another route. After a spike in people crossing the U.S.-Mexico border in July 2015, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency launched a campaign to persuade people not to illegally cross into the U.S.
The agency released four main videos online, each 30 seconds and a little different to warn people in El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Mexico about the dangers of crossing the border and trusting human smugglers. In fact, the videos say that under Obama, if they are caught after crossing, the will immediately be deported.
Indeed, under the Obama administration, there have been approximately 2 million deportations of illegal immigrants — nine times the rate of 20 years ago and far outpacing previous presidents. While his executive action in November 2014 was aimed at bringing down some of these measures, they have been continually challenged both politically and in court.
Obama has continued to take bold moves during his last two years in office, and whether there will be more movement in either direction before he leaves office in January 2017 is still unknown. What is for certain, however, is that there will be plenty left for the next president to deal with, and whether because of Donald or not, it certainly will be debated in the coming months.