First things first, the CRS does not weigh in on whether Obama’s immigration move circumventing Congress was lawful. “That debate and its attendant legal questions are beyond the scope of this report,” the researchers write.
Now, Obama’s post-midterm election executive actions spanned several initiatives, which are all covered in the report, but the most controversial was his decision to defer deportation of as many as 5 million undocumented immigrants. To qualify for deferment, an individual must be the parent of a U.S. citizen or U.S. lawful permanent residents (LPRs), have lived continuously in the United States since before Jan. 1, 2010, and pass other background checks.
As the CRS explains, the expansion allows them to stay in the United States legally, and work if they get employment authorization, without fear of removal for three years. But, despite some accusations from opponents that the action is a form of amnesty, CRS writes, “individuals granted deferred action would not be provided with a pathway to a lawful immigration status, however, and DHS has the discretion to terminate the grant of deferred action at any time.”
CRS notes opposition’s argument that even if a Republican successor in 2017 wanted to rollback the actions, it would be difficult to revoke them now that they’re in place. The report also concludes that it is unclear whether Obama’s executive actions would inspire Congress to pass permanent legislation. The Loop’s money is on “no.”
A recent Washington Post-ABC News poll found that 56 percent of Americans want Republicans to block the executive action. But CBS asked a similar question and found 55 percent said Congress should “let it stand.” The divergent results seems to underscore that immigration is a complicated and fraught issue without a clear consensus.
But since Congress is unlikely to act, if you like your new immigration status, you can keep your immigration status … for now.