Since Congress first passed a comprehensive immigration law—the Immigration and Nationality Act—in 1952, each of the 11 subsequent presidents, from President Dwight D. Eisenhower through President Barack Obama, have used their broad executive authority to address unanticipated situations affecting foreign nationals at home and abroad. These executive actions have filled gaps in legislation by permitting certain individuals to temporarily enter or remain in the United States when it serves the nation’s interests. They have protected people from specific countries—such as Hungarians and Cubans fleeing communism, Iranians fleeing revolution, Chinese nationals after the Tiananmen Square massacre, as well as Salvadorans, Hondurans, Guatemalans, and Nicaraguans after a hurricane. These executive actions have also addressed individuals who share attributes or possess common equities such as spouses and children of immigrants who received legal status under the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 and, more recently, DREAMers through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program.
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