Asserting his authority as president to enforce the nation’s laws with discretion, It is understood that Obama intends to order changes that will significantly refocus the activities of the government’s 12,000 immigration agents.
One key piece of the order, officials say, will allow many parents of children who are American citizens or legal residents to obtain legal work documents and no longer worry about being discovered, separated from their families and sent away.
That part of Mr. Obama’s plan alone could affect as many as 3.3 million people who have been living in the United States illegally for at least five years, according to an analysis by the Migration Policy Institute, an immigration research organization in Washington.
However, the White House is also considering a stricter policy that would limit the benefits to people who have lived in the country for at least 10 years, or about 2.5 million people.
Extending protections to more undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children, and to their parents, could affect an additional one million or more if they are included in the final plan that the president announces.
White House officials are also still debating whether to include protections for farm workers who have entered the country illegally but have been employed for years in the agriculture industry, a move that could affect hundreds of thousands of people.
Mr. Obama’s actions will also expand opportunities for legal immigrants who have high-tech skills, shift extra security resources to the nation’s southern border, revamp a controversial immigration enforcement program called Secure Communities, and provide clearer guidance to the agencies that enforce immigration laws about who should be a low priority for deportation, especially those with strong family ties and no serious criminal history.
A new memorandum, which will direct the actions of enforcement and border agents and immigration judges, will make clear that deportations should still proceed for convicted criminals, foreigners who pose national security risks and recent border crossers, officials said.
White House officials declined to comment publicly before a formal announcement by Mr. Obama, who will return from an eight-day trip to Asia on Sunday. Administration officials said details about the package of executive actions were still being finished and could change.
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