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Obama's plan could keep millions of immigrants in U.S. illegally

| Saturday, Aug. 2, 2014, 12:01 a.m.

WASHINGTON — President Obama is preparing to announce measures that potentially would allow millions of illegal immigrants to remain in the United States without fear of deportation, a politically explosive decision that could jolt Washington just weeks before the midterm elections, according to people who have been in touch with the White House.

Administration officials have told allies in private meetings that the surge of Central American children crossing the border and Congress' failure this year to pass a broader immigration overhaul have propelled the president toward taking action on his own by summer's end.

Obama aides have discussed a range of options that could provide legal protections and work permits to a significant portion of the nation's more than 11 million undocumented residents, said Democratic lawmakers and immigrant advocates who have met recently with White House officials.

Ideas under consideration could include temporary relief for law-abiding undocumented immigrants who are closely related to U.S. citizens or those who have lived in the country for a certain number of years — a population that advocates say could reach as high as 5 million.

Some Senate Democrats running for re-election in traditionally conservative states, such as Arkansas and Louisiana, have expressed misgivings about Obama's going too far on the issue, fearing it will not play well among voters in their states.

Supporters of executive action said the president has little to lose by embracing a broad legalization program that could become a signature achievement in a second term defined by gridlock on Capitol Hill.

Obama appeared to relish the differences between the two parties on Friday as the GOP-led House passed a largely symbolic border crisis funding bill with provisions to end his 2012 program that deferred deportations of many immigrants who had been brought to the country illegally as children. The action was popular with Hispanic voters and was seen as a key factor in Obama's ability to win 70 percent of that electorate in his re-election.

Calling the House measure “extreme and unworkable,” Obama signaled in a news conference that he believes Congress has opened the door for him to act.

“House Republicans suggested that since they don't expect to pass a bill I can sign, that I should go ahead and act on my own to solve the problem,” Obama said.

The anticipation that Obama is preparing to sign off on a major expansion of the 2012 relief program, which has delayed deportations of more than 550,000 younger immigrants, has prompted Republicans to begin framing such a move as more evidence of an imperial White House intent on circumventing Congress.

The House measure, a $694 million U.S.-Mexico border security bill, passed, 223-189. It would provide funds to address the influx of children at the U.S.-Mexico border and speed the deportation of Central American children arriving at the border.

“There is a crisis at our southern border, and it is a crisis of the president's own making,” said House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va. “Since the president isn't taking the serious action needed to secure the southern border, the House is doing so today.”

The Senate did not advance its $2.7 billion measure on Thursday and left Washington on Friday.

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