President Obama, following through on his vow to sidestep Congress, will announce in a prime-time TV speech Thursday the executive actions he will take to change U.S. immigration law.
Obama will make his announcement, expected to protect roughly 5 million illegal immigrants from deportation, from the White House at 8 p.m. EST.
The president will go ahead with his plan despite widespread opposition from Capitol Hill Republicans, who have asked him to wait until next year when the GOP controls the House and Senate to try to reform the country’s broken immigration system.
Obama is also under intense pressure from Hispanics and much of his liberal base to act now, after promising to act by September, then disappointing them by waiting until after the midterms.
Immigration lawyer Margaret Wong released a statement saying that she had been invited to the White House for a holiday party Wednesday night and that Obama had told her “I had promised. I had promised.”
“He was actually very proud that he’s been able to keep his word,” Wong said.
At least some of the estimated 5 million illegal immigrants who would be spared from deportation are also expected to be made eligible for work permits. But the eligible immigrants would not be entitled to federal benefits — including health care tax credits — under the plan, administration officials said Wednesday.
Late Wednesday, the United Farm Workers announced that Obama had told union President Arturo Rodriguez that at least 250,000 unionized farm workers would be eligible for deportation relief, with at least half that eligible number based in California.
The president in 2012 used executive action to delay deportation for some of the millions of young people brought the U.S. illegally by their parents.
House Speaker John Boehner has warned Obama that taking executive action on the immigration issue before January would be tantamount to “playing with fire.”
And on Wednesday before the announcement, Boehner aide Michael Steel referred to the president and attempt to govern alone as “Emperor Obama.”
The Democrat-controlled Senate last year passed bipartisan, comprehensive immigration-reform legislation. However, the GOP-controlled House has not passed such a bill.