2 GOP presidents acted unilaterally on immigration
Two presidents have acted unilaterally on immigration, and both were Republican. Ronald Reagan and his successor George H.W. Bush extended amnesty to family members who were not covered by the last major overhaul of immigration law in 1986.
Neither faced the political uproar widely anticipated if and when President Barack Obama uses his executive authority to protect millions of immigrants from deportation.
Reagan and Bush's actions were conducted in the wake of a sweeping, bipartisan immigration overhaul and at a time when 'amnesty' was not a dirty word. Their actions were less controversial because there was a consensus in Washington that the 1986 law needed a few fixes and Congress was poised to act on them. Obama is acting as the country, and Washington, are bitterly divided over a broken immigration system and what to do about 11 million people living in the US illegally.
Obama wants to extend protection from deportation to millions of immigrant parents and spouses of US citizens and permanent residents, and expand his two year-old programme that shields immigrants brought illegally to this country as children.