Obama's Immigration Plans Failed — It's Complicated

It's been eight years, and President Obama isn't afraid to admit it didn't get done.
Posted at 7:57 AM, Jun 06, 2017

"We need to do it by the end of my first term. ... They need us to enact comprehensive immigration reform once and for all," President Obama said.

In 2008, Barack Obama promised he would reform immigration in his first four years. But it's been two terms, and a comprehensive immigration bill hasn't passed. Here's what happened.

Let's start with Obama's first term.

In 2009, the country was in a recession and involved in two wars. Obama's proposed health care bill was also getting a lot of backlash. Remember this?

"You lie!" U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson yelled.

Yet while dealing with all that, Obama continued to push his immigration agenda.

He met with party leaders.

"Hello, everybody. We have just finished what I consider a very productive meeting," Obama said.

He spoke at universities.

"The system is broken. And everybody knows it," Obama said.

He traveled to border states.

"And now we need Congress to catch up," Obama said.

And he released proposals and policy campaigns.

Despite his best efforts, in his first term, three comprehensive immigration bills died in the House and Senate.

"I'm happy to take responsibility for the fact that we didn't get it done. There's a thinking that the president is somebody who is all powerful and gets everything done. I'm not the head of the legislature. I'm not the head of the judiciary. We have to have cooperation from all these sources in order to get something done," Obama said.

Nine days into Obama's second term, it was clear comprehensive immigration reform would be more of a focus when he gave this speech in Las Vegas.

"Now is the time. Now is the time," Obama said.

"¡Sí, se puede!" the crowd chanted.

SEE MORE: 'Sí Se Puede' Has A History Off The Campaign Trail

The momentum came from eight senators who introduced a comprehensive bill that later passed in the Senate. But that bill didn't go any further. House Democrats introduced a similar bill with a few changes. It died.

And so did many others.

But public opinion on immigration was shifting. In a 2013 Gallup poll, 87 percent of Americans favored a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants up from 64 percent in 2011.

And pro-immigration reform advocates became impatient as Obama continued to deport millions who were undocumented.

SEE MORE: Deportation Split Their Families, But This Park Lets Them Reunite

"You have the power to stop deportations for all undocumented immigrants," an audience member said.

"Actually, I don't, and that's why we are here," Obama said. 

"Stop deportations!" the audience chanted.

So in 2014, Obama took executive action.

"There are actions I have the legal authority to take as president ... that will help make our immigration system more fair and more just," Obama said.

Obama's three-part action aimed to expand the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and give amnesty to millions of undocumented parents who have lived in the U.S. for at least five years.

But after two years of legal challenges debating Obama's authority, the Supreme Court tied, leaving a lower court block intact.

"Today, the Supreme Court was unable to reach a decision," Obama said.

SEE MORE: President Obama's Immigration Plan Isn't Dead, Just Deferred

So what can future presidents take away from Obama's eight-year immigration battle?

"Change is never easy and never quick," Obama said.