President Obama is gearing up to announce a 10-point plan to overhaul U.S. immigration policy via executive action, according to a draft proposal.
As reported Wednesday by Fox News, a source says the president is expected to make his move as early as next week.
Already, word that Obama is planning to go around Congress has riled Republican lawmakers, who continue to urge him not to take that step.
“We’re going to fight the president tooth-and-nail if this is the path he wants to take,” House Speaker John Boehner vowed on Thursday.
While the White House says Obama has not made a final decision, spokesman Josh Earnest made clear he will act soon.
Obama repeated the commitment to a plan Friday at a press conference in Burma. He said he plans on acting by the end of the year. Obama said yet again if Congress passes an extensive reform bill, he’ll nullify any executive actions.
The 10 points of the draft plan are:
Expand ‘deferred action’ for young illegal immigrants
This would expand a major step taken by Obama in June 2012.In June 2012, Obama offered a deportation reprieve – a.k.a., deferred action — for illegal immigrants who came to the U.S. as children, entered before June 2007 and were under 31 as of June 2012.
The change would expand that to cover anyone who entered before they were 16, and change the cut-off from June 2007 to Jan. 1, 2010. This is estimated to make nearly 300,000 illegal immigrants eligible.
Expand ‘deferred action’ for parents of U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents
This would significantly expand the above program by also giving a reprieve to illegal immigrants who have been in the U.S. for more than five years and have children who are U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents.
This could allow upwards of 4.5 million illegal immigrant adults to stay, according to estimates.
Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., voiced concerns, though, that illegal immigrants could simply fib in order to meet the criteria for this program. Further, he said millions more people would then be “entitled” to U.S. privileges including health care.
Regarding the proposed expansions, Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton told Fox News this amounts to a direction from the White House “not to enforce the law.”
“If experience is any guide, it will lead to one of the greatest mass migrations in history,” he said.
Immigrant advocates, though, have argued that deferred action has been used plenty of times before, and that it is needed to help undocumented immigrants come out of the shadows.
Prioritize deportations for serious criminals
This would be a Department of Homeland Security-wide enforcement policy to prioritize deportations for serious criminals and other individuals deemed a threat – including gang members.
The department already does this to some extent. Though critics say the prioritization so far still allows criminals to skirt deportation, House Democrats backed this approach in a letter to the president on Thursday urging executive action.
“Our national security suffers whenever we spend precious enforcement resources on hardworking immigrant families, rather than on criminals and those who mean our communities harm,” they wrote.
End ‘Secure Communities’ and start a new program
This would discontinue the so-called “Secure Communities” program. Under this program, the FBI has taken fingerprint information that it gets from local jails and checks it against immigration databases. Immigration and Customs Enforcement can then pursue deportation for any illegal immigrants who have a serious record or are otherwise deemed a threat.
Hundreds of thousands of “criminal aliens” have been deported this way.
However, while federal immigration officials consider this program a helpful enforcement tool, Secure Communities has been controversial and some local jurisdictions have refused to participate. The plan calls for replacing this with another, unspecified program.
Boost pay for ICE officers
This calls for a pay raise for Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers, to “increase morale.” Earlier this year, the National ICE Council – the union representing ICE workers – called for more funding for the agency. It’s unclear whether pay raises would address the union’s deeper concerns about the administration’s immigration policies.
Expand high-tech visas
The plan calls for working with the State Department to expand visas for foreign-born workers with high-tech skills, to support U.S. businesses. This is projected to offer another half-million immigrants a path to citizenship. Groups like the Chamber of Commerce have been calling for more of these visas – but Sen. Sessions has argued that the priority should be getting U.S. citizens back to work.
Strengthen border security
The plan would commit additional resources to the U.S.-Mexico border to deal with illegal immigrant traffic, partly in response to the surge over the summer of undocumented children from Central America.
Border security has been a priority for Republican lawmakers, who want to see the border secured before considering a pathway to legal status for illegal immigrants who already are in the U.S.
Expand provisional waivers to spouses and children of legal permanent residents
This would expand a provisional waiver program announced in January 2013 for undocumented spouses and children of permanent residents and U.S. citizens. The waiver lets them stay in the country – the plan calls for an expansion, though the details are unclear.
The government currently allows “parole” for illegal immigrant relatives and spouses of U.S. military members – effectively letting them stay on “parole” status if they’re already in the country. The proposed change would expand the program for illegal immigrants whose children are citizens.
Promote the naturalization process
Currently, the naturalization fee is $680. To encourage people to begin the citizenship process, DHS would take 50 percent off the fee for the first 10,000 applicants.
Fox News’ Lucas Tomlinson contributed to this report.