President Obama’s Immigration Action Step in the Right Direction

The National Association of Social Workers applauds President Obama’s decision to issue an executive action that will likely lead to as many as five million previously undocumented immigrants to be able to remain in the United States.

This action was very meaningful to immigrant families with children who were born in the United States (and are therefore U.S. citizens) and to undocumented parents. Indeed, Obama’s speech announcing his executive action made it clear that he is deeply committed to helping these families remain intact.

Still we must remember that more than 1,000 people are separated from their families every single day and many  are heads of households with minor children. Obama’s administrative relief will change the lives of millions of immigrant families, ensuring members of their community can support their families, go to school, and contribute to our nation’s shared prosperity. As a result, previously undocumented families will breathe a sigh of relief knowing their families will remain together without fear of being deported.

In a statement that summarized the essence of his actions, the President said:

Mass amnesty would be unfair. Mass deportation would be both impossible and contrary to our character. What I’m describing is accountability – a commonsense, middle ground approach: If you meet the criteria, you can come out of the shadows and get right with the law. If you’re a criminal, you’ll be deported. If you plan to enter the U.S. illegally, your chances of getting caught and sent back just went up.

However, for several reasons, our celebration should be somewhat muted. While five million undocumented immigrants will benefit from this executive action there are still more than six million individuals who will still “live in the shadows.”

We are also deeply concerned about the lack of access to health care (through the Affordable Care Act), which continues to be unattainable to those who are covered by the President’s executive order. This is especially problematic for female-headed households with school-aged children. We urge the administration to explore avenues that will facilitate access to affordable health coverage to those who benefit from administrative relief, including those with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) status. The DACA initiative granted certain children relief from deportation through a 2012 immigration policy change ordered by President Obama.

While we are greatly encouraged by the President’s action, to some degree it is only a first step. NASW and its partners in the fight for social justice and civil rights must continue to urge Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform that fixes our broken immigration system once and for all.

MelWilson2NASW’s 1,000 Experts Campaign brings together the brightest minds in social work to address social issues of the day. The 1,000 Experts Child Immigration Crisis package contains NASW resource materials on immigration, including a Social Justice Brief with recommendations on address the issue of unaccompanied child immigrants and an NASW Immigration Policy Toolkit. To learn more about how NASW is addressing immigration reform and how you can get involved contact Mel Wilson, Department of Social Justice and Human Rights, at


  1. Yesterday, Federal Judge Schwab ruled that President Obama’s action is unconsitutional. He wrote: “On November 20, 2014, President Obama announced an Executive Action on immigration, which will affect approximately four million undocumented immigrants who are unlawfully present in the United States of America. This Executive Action raises concerns about the separation of powers between the legislative and executive branches of government. This core constitutional issue necessitates judicial review to ensure that executive power is governed by and answerable to the law such that “the sword that executeth the law is in it, and not above it,” Schwab wrote.

    “President Obama contended that although legislation is the most appropriate course of action to solve the immigration debate, his Executive Action was necessary because of Congress’s failure to pass legislation, acceptable to him, in this regard,” Schwab continued. “This proposition is arbitrary and does not negate the requirement that the November 20, 2014 Executive Action be lawfully within the President’s executive authority. It is not.”

    “This Executive Action “cross[es] the line,” constitutes “legislation,” and effectively changes the United States’ immigration policy. The President may only “take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed . . . ”; he may not take any Executive Action that creates laws,” he continued. “President Obama’s unilateral legislative action violates the separation of powers provided for in the United States Constitution as well as the Take Care Clause, and therefore, is

    Although this decision has no directed power to rescind this, it does open the door to more litigation against the Executive action. We need Congress to step up and bring positive changes to facilitate legal immigration while protecting the safety and rights of American citizens.

  2. I think it was a very good idea that President Obama had and wants to realize, but there must be indeed some little differences between the migrants. Not everybody can be treated the same way or equal.

    That families can not longer be separated is a major item.
    But at the moment that these migrants, who fall under the regularisation, get the same rights as the American citizen they also have to be aware that they also will be treated like all other citizens.
    This includes also that there will be the necessary sanctions if they violate the law.

    The American people are not so forgiven by nature, even if the laws will be changed. This they have proven themselves, after more than 100 years of civil rights for the coloured, they still not treated equal.
    Also in this case, these people will still be good for “dirty jobs” and be exploited for this purpose. Not only by the smugglers that they have to pay for years but also by the American citizens who have everything in order and take advantage of the fact that they had or still not have in lots of cases NO RIGHTS or knowledge to get the correct application of their rights .

    There will always stay the possibility of unjustly accusations and/or the possibility of being betrayed to the migration authorities. For the coming decennia the cliché will remain.

    As I said, it is only the first step and there will certainly be needed a much larger discussion and other changes to create a clear view of the situation here.

    • Really the use of the word “coloured” in 2016 – all I can say is WOW!!! I hope that you are not a professional social worker … If so, I hope that you are not working with black Americans.

  3. Laurien Van Genechten

    What Obama does with this action is, in my opinion, certainly not a bad thing. But this has to be viewed in the right context. We should be happy with every step in the right direction. On the other hand, we shouldn’t be satisfied too easily; we should keep fighting for social justice, democracy and equality. We should acknowledge people for who they are as a person and then act to this.

    This is just a first step and America has a lot more steps to take. We shouldn’t forget that another 6 million people still live ‘in the shadows’. One of the most important actions for us social workers is to keep fighting for respect, individuality, democracy and equality. As long as we keep doing that, there is stil hope for more steps in the right direction.

  4. The hypocracy of this article is unbelievable. You’re endorsing the actions of a President who has created authority by the Executive branch of government to usurp the powers of the Legislative and Judicial branches? REALLY?

    NASW’s governance structure is built upon the same lines: Executive (National Board), Legislative (Delegate Assembly) and Judicial (Ethics Committee). This structure is due to the overwhelming voice of NASW members NOT trusting the Board to make policy statements, set association priorities and govern the By-Laws. Every time we’ve tried to eliminate Delegate Assembly, the members refuse to do so.

    Yet, the Association is now supporting a President illegally exercising power to grant immunity to criminals without doing anything to protect the borders from more pooring in. This administration has done little to work with the countries driving their citizens across our borders (when are we going to fight those countries’ poor economies and the drug cartels?). This administration (and Congress in both parties) has done little to reform immigration laws, including obliterating the “anchor baby” law.

    Regarding “access to health care”–we have it. Emergency rooms, faith-based and other health clinics…. But our Veterans don’t have ready access to health care through the VA. They’re still struggling to supply services to meet the needs of our veterans and their families. But know that no health care is “free”. The Affordable Care Act was designed to be funded by the traditional “80/20” risk pool formula–20% of the patients will use 80% of the dollars funded by everyone in the pool. But the individual mandate of the ACA has failed to recruit a sufficient number of members who are health and will create a small amount of claims. Many of my patients failed to realize they actually had to pay ANY premium…they thought the care was “free”.

    I am genuinely supportive of the children of illegal immigrants who were born here or grew up here knowing no other country. We have to be able to find a way to keep their families intact, yet offer punishment for their parents who engaged in the illegal actions to come here. But let’s do this through the elected branch of government known as “Legislative” (i.e. Congress) not through a President who issues orders when Congress doesn’t do what he wants….

    I’m ready for the angry diatribe of retorts…..just remember, I’m a full dues-paying member of NASW too.

    • Perhaps there will be no “angry diatribe of retorts” because we all realize that the President DID NOT illegally exercise power and that it is senseless to debate ignorance.

    • Sylvia,

      Any other thoughts about the rest of my statement, beyond the one word (“illegally”)?

  5. I’m curious as to why are you celebrating? This president has had several years to do something to help inner city dwellers who are living in ghetto’s, no jobs, and the children attend dilapidated schools. I have to wonder why the president is more concerned with the people coming across out border illegally than he is Americas’s poor, especially Black Americans.

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