By Michael D. Shear and Julia Preston on Nov. 19, 2014
WASHINGTON — President Obama will speak to the nation in a prime-time address on Thursday, asserting his authority to provide legal status for up to five million undocumented immigrants, the White House said, and setting in motion an immediate confrontation with Republicans about the limits of a president’s executive powers.
In a video posted on the White House website Wednesday afternoon, Mr. Obama said that he would deliver the 8 p.m. speech from the White House to announce “steps that I can take to start fixing our broken immigration system.”
“Everybody agrees that our immigration system is broken,” Mr. Obama said in the video. “Unfortunately, Washington has allowed the problem to fester for too long. What I’m going to be laying out is things that I can do with my lawful authority as president to make the system work better even as I continue to work with Congress and encourage them to get a bipartisan, comprehensive bill that can solve the entire problem.”
The president will travel to a Las Vegas high school on Friday to rally support for his actions and to detail the impact of the move in a state where Hispanics are a growing and politically powerful constituency, he announced in the video. He invited key lawmakers to the White House on Wednesday evening to talk about his immigration plans.
Mr. Obama has said for months that he would act to revamp the nation’s immigration enforcement system if Republicans continued to block a legislative overhaul that would enhance border security, increase legal immigration and provide a path to legalization for many of the 11 million people living illegally in the United States.
The actions Mr. Obama is expected to announce will not go that far. But they will remove the threat of deportation for the parents of children who are citizens or legal permanent residents of the United States. He will also provide new guidance for the nation’s immigration enforcement agents and revamp the legal immigration system to provide more opportunities for high-tech workers from other countries.
As many as four million immigrants living in the country illegally will get a reprieve from deportation under a new program similar to one that already protects undocumented people who were brought to the country as children, according to people who were briefed on the announcement by senior White House officials. The immigrants must have lived in the country for at least five years and have no criminal record.
Officials said an additional one million people would get protection through other parts of the president’s actions.
The parents of immigrants who came as children will not receive protection under the president’s actions, according to those who were briefed Wednesday. White House officials have also told advocates that farmworkers will not be covered by the president’s actions.
White House officials have said that the president remains open to signing a legislative overhaul if Republicans relent, but that his patience has run out. By taking action now, Mr. Obama is daring the Republicans, who will take over control of Congress in January, to try to stand in the way of change that is favored by many in the growing, politically powerful Latino constituency.
Speaker John A. Boehner and other top Republicans have vowed to try to overturn the president’s actions. But the party has been split about whether to threaten a government shutdown or an impeachment proceeding if the president moves ahead with unilateral action.
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