A Look Back at the History of Executive Actions by U.S. Presidents

A Look Back at the History of Executive Actions by U.S. Presidents

By Alicia Neaves
NewsWest 9

The paperwork for illegal immigrants to apply to stay in the U.S. was supposed to start Wednesday. It's all part of the president's executive action on immigration. At the last minute, a coalition of 26 states led by Texas blocked it.

On Thursday, NewsWest 9 take a look back at the history of these executive orders.

Did you know there was one president who averaged a little less than one executive order a day?

Executive action, on immigration in particular, is really nothing new. This action is a huge part of the modern presidency.

Some date the modern era back to McKinley, Franklin D. Roosevelt and even Teddy Roosevelt. George Washington even issued an executive order.

"Throughout the first part of the early republic and beyond, it wasn't used very often. Then Lincoln sort of picked up the pace. Then Ulysses S. Grant used quite a few but it was really relatively infrequent. It wasn't until the 20th century when you began to have significant usage of it," Dr. Derek Catsam, Associate Professor of History at UTPB, said.

FDR used these executive actions - on average - almost once a day. Since then, the numbers have plateaued.

"It certainly has leveled out with the most frequent being Dwight Eisenhower and Ronald Reagan using them the most. In fact, Barack Obama has used them fewer than any president since Grover Cleveland per year," Catsam said.

Executive action on immigration has a long history.

Pew Research dates it back to Kennedy aiding Cuban refugees in 1961. Carter & Ford aided the Vietnamese and Cuban & Haitian refugees. Reagan made moves and implemented deferred deportation. President H. W. Bush protected Salvadoran refugees and Clinton did the same with immigrants from Haiti.

The last order to start a "firestorm" as experts called it, with a similar reaction to president Obama's action on immigration, was by Truman.

"Truman's executive order desegregating the military, which also raised a firestorm in certain circles," Catsam said.

Experts say President Obama has signed the most memoranda - which have the effect of an executive order - but they add, this isn't out of the ordinary.

"There's nothing particularly new that this administration is doing. Nothing particularly nefarious. There's no sign that the extent of these is anything other than less than what has gone on before," Catsam said.

The application process for extended DACA was supposed to begin Wednesday but lawyers tell us those will not be accepted until further legal action.