This article was originally published in the Washington Post.
The White House has defended President Obama’s unilateral decision to legalize the presence of nearly 4 million undocumented immigrants as consistent, even in scope, with the executive actions of previous presidents. In fact, it is increasingly clear that the sweeping magnitude of Mr. Obama’s order is unprecedented.
Central to the administration’s argument is its contention that the 4 million covered by the president’s order — some 36 percent of the estimated undocumented population of 11 million — is in line with the percentage covered by a comparable action by President George H.W. Bush in 1990. At that time, there were about 3.5 million illegal immigrants in the country; Mr. Obama, administration officials and their allies have said that about 1.5 million of them — the spouses and children of previously amnestied immigrants — benefited from Mr. Bush’s move.
In addition to the White House press secretary, Josh Earnest, and Mr. Obama himself, the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel citedthe Bush executive action as precedent, using the figure of 1.5 million immigrants.
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