U.S. Representative Paul Ryan, the leading Republican voice on
fiscal policy and a potential 2016 presidential candidate, called
the plan a "partisan bomb" while a spokesman for House Speaker John
Boehner branded the president “Emperor Obama” for acting
The White House said Obama will deliver a televised speech at 8 p.m.
ET on Thursday (0100 GMT Friday) laying out the plan followed by a
trip to Las Vegas on Friday. Nevada is home to the highest
proportion of undocumented immigrants.
Frustrated by years of congressional inaction on what most in
Washington agree is a broken immigration system, Obama said he is
now prepared to use his executive authority.
Obama's directives are expected to remove the threat of deportation
for as many as 5 million of the estimated 11 million people living
illegally in the United States.
The decision will cement his legacy as having aided Hispanics who
helped elect him in 2008 and who have become increasingly vocal in
their frustration that he has failed to live up to his promise to
enact immigration reform.
The unilateral overhaul will likely have a ripple effect on the
campaign to find a successor to the president in 2016. While
Hispanics will no doubt be pleased, Democrats could face a backlash
Reaction was swift from Republicans who took control of the Senate
in Nov. 4 elections and strengthened their grip on the House of
While liberal Democrats were thrilled at Obama's decision to move
ahead, some moderate voices in Obama's party were uneasy.
"I wish he wouldn't do it," said Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of
West Virginia. "I just wish he wouldn't do it."
Obama will host 18 congressional Democrats at the White House to
consolidate support for his immigration plans among his closest
allies on Capitol Hill.
Some conservative Republicans have threatened to fight the
immigration move by imposing funding restrictions in a must-pass
spending bill, which could conceivably lead to a government
Republican leaders, however, have stressed they will not allow a
shutdown after facing heavy criticism for the last one a year ago.
House Republicans are weighing a range of responses to register
"If 'Emperor Obama' ignores the American people and announces an
amnesty plan that he himself has said over and over again exceeds
his constitutional authority, he will cement his legacy of
lawlessness and ruin the chances for congressional action on this
issue and many others," said Michael Steel, spokesman for House
Speaker John Boehner.
For a president known for having deported thousands of illegal
migrants, the actions he will take mark a dramatic shift in course,
although advocacy groups will argue that he should go even further
in protecting more people who work low-paying jobs that many
American citizens prefer not to do.
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Sources close to the administration said Obama is planning to issue
a reprieve from deportation that will cover some parents of U.S.
citizens and legal permanent residents.
That initiative would expand on a 2012 executive order by the
president that gave relief from deportation and work permits to
undocumented children brought to the United States by their parents.
There is also expected to be a border security element and Obama
will act to help companies hire and retain high-skilled workers from
abroad, the sources said.
Obama's move is his most defiant step yet in reaction to the
elections handing control of the Senate to Republicans. The new
political order in Washington will test Obama's ability to make
compromises with his opponents.
An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll found 48 percent would prefer
Obama not act on his own, while 38 percent support it and 14 percent
had no opinion or were unsure.
The last major immigration overhaul that expanded the number of
legal migrants was in 1986 through legislation signed by Republican
President Ronald Reagan. An attempt by President George W. Bush in
2007 for immigration reform failed.
It is not out of the question that Obama early next year could offer
to approve the long-stalled Keystone XL pipeline from Canada in
exchange for a deal on immigration legislation.
Despite claims that Obama may overstep his executive powers, Stephen
Legomsky, a former U.S. immigration official who is now a professor
at Washington University law school, said the president's planned
action appeared to fit well within the bounds of established law and
(Additional reporting by Julia Edwards, Susan Cornwell, Doina
Chiacu, Amanda Becker, Susan Heavey and Roberta Rampton; Editing by
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