President Obama will announce an executive order as early as next week that will protect up to five million unauthorized immigrants from deportation and allow them to obtain work permits, the New York Times reported Thursday.
Administration officials told the Times that the order will allow many parents of children who are citizens or legal residents to live free of the fear of being deported and separated from their families.
That provision could affect up to 3.3 million people, or 2.5 million if limited to those who have lived in the country for at least a decade.
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The order could also extend to about a million parents of unauthorized immigrants who were brought to the country as children.
The order marks a shift in the priorities of Department of Homeland Security officials and the Border Patrol. Agencies will be directed to place a low priority on unauthorized immigrants with strong family ties and no serious criminal history, and instead focus on convicted criminals, national security risks, and recent border crossers.
Obama had been starkly criticized by immigrant rights groups for waiting to take action until after the November elections, but he now appears poised to follow through on his latest promise to take action before the end of the year.
It will be a move that enrages Republicans, some of whom have sent signals in recent days that they may be willing to shut down the government over the president’s immigration plan.
The push for this course of action is growing. Fifty Republican lawmakers sent a letter to the chairman and ranking member of the House Appropriations Committee asking them to include a rider in the upcoming spending bill that preemptively blocks funds for any executive action on immigration.
The coming weeks will determine whether the GOP-dominated House passes an omnibus spending bill—which will fund the government through October and include new funding for rape kit testing and equal abortion coverage for Peace Corps volunteers—or a continuing resolution (CR), which maintains current funding levels and could last either three months or the full year.
Passing a shorter-term CR could allow Republicans to wage a budget war over immigration or the Affordable Care Act early next year, once they take over the Senate.
The appropriations committee, however, isn’t sending signals that it will heed more radical calls to fight over the budget in this way.
“We’re moving forward full-steam ahead to develop an Omnibus by December 11th and making progress,” Matthew Dennis, spokesperson for the committee’s Democrats, told Rewire.
Committee chairman Harold Rogers (R-KY) told reporters Thursday that he thought Republican calls to use the budget to fight over immigration were empty threats.
“Well, we’re not going to shut down the government,” Rogers said. “So there’s no use talking about using that as a threat. We’ve been down that road before.”