House Speaker John Boehner is arguing that President Obama’s moves to defer deportations for up to five million undocumented immigrants will make illegal immigration worse, citing President Obama’s own past words to make the argument.
But a top immigration expert disagreed, arguing that the causes of illegal immigration are more complex.
Obama announced Thursday that he would allow millions of undocumented immigrant parents of U.S. citizen and legal permanent resident children who have been living in the country for at least five years to avoid deportation for three years if they pay back taxes and pass a criminal background check.
Boehner said that will only encourage more people to try to cross the border. His office pointed to a 2010 Obama statement in which the President said that providing undocumented workers legal status “could lead to a surge in more illegal immigration.”
“The action by the President yesterday will only encourage more people to come here illegally and put their lives at risk,” said Boehner. “We saw the humanitarian crisis on our border last summer—how horrific it was. Well next summer, it could be worse.”
Boehner was referring to a surge in unaccompanied minors from October 2013 through September, when over 68,000 unaccompanied minors crossed the southwest border, a 77% increase over the previous year. (The number of children coming over has sharply declined in the past few months.)
But Doris Meissner, the director of the Migration Policy Institute’s immigration policy work, said that Boehner’s criticism was off. Here’s what she told TIME: