WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama on Thursday will announce steps he will take to shield up to 5 million immigrants illegally in the United States from deportation, defying Republican lawmakers who say sidestepping Congress would poison relations with the new Republican led legislature.
Republicans are vehemently opposed to the president’s likely actions, with some conservative members threatening to pursue a government shutdown if Obama follows through on his promises to act before the end of the year.
Even if the Republicans stop short of a total government shutdown, the unilateral move will likely torpedo any hopes of co-operation during the last two years of Obama’s presidency.
Obama, in a video released on Facebook, said he would make his announcement from the White House at 8 p.m. EST on Thursday (0100 GMT, Friday), then would travel to Las Vegas to promote the plan Friday.
He said while everyone agrees the immigration system is broken, Washington has allowed the problem “to fester for too long.”
“What I’m going to be laying out is the things that I can do with my lawful authority as president to make the system better, even as I continue to work with Congress and encourage them to get a bipartisan, comprehensive bill that can solve the entire problem,” Obama said.
A wide-ranging immigration bill passed the Senate last year, but stalled in the Republican-led House. Obama vowed this summer to instead pursue changes to the immigration system using his own authority but delayed the measures until after the midterm elections, in part because of concerns from some Democrats facing tough races.
Democrats still lost control of the Senate in the midterm balloting.
Obama was to speak at Las Vegas’ Del Sol High School, a school with a large population of non-English speaking students where Obama unveiled his blueprint for comprehensive immigration legislation in 2013.
As many as 5 million people in the country illegally would be spared from deportation and made eligible for work permits. But the eligible immigrants would not be entitled to federal benefits — including health care tax credits — under the plan, officials said Wednesday.