Competing politics forced Obama delay immigration

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Obama Pushes Back Executive Action On Immigration
By JIM KUHNHENN

WASHINGTON (AP) - Caught between competing political demands over immigration, President Barack Obama will now wait until after the November election to take executive action that could shield millions of immigrants from deportation and ignite a clash over the extent of his presidential authority.

Obama's decision abandons a pledge he made June 30 to act quickly after summer's end, and it prompted an immediate and furious backlash from immigration advocates. But in the past several weeks, the pressure for swift measures from pro-immigration groups ran up against fears from Democrats that acting now would energize Republican opposition against vulnerable Senate Democrats

Two White House officials said Obama concluded that circumventing Congress through executive actions on immigration during the campaign would politicize the issue and hurt future efforts to pass a broad overhaul. They said he fully intends to act before the end of the year.

Reflecting the passion behind the threat of deportations, however, immigration advocacy groups that have criticized Republicans for not passing an immigration overhaul instantly turned their anger on Obama.

Cristina Jimenez, managing director of United We Dream, said the decision was "another slap to the face of the Latino and immigrant community."

"Where we have demanded leadership and courage from both Democrats and the president, we've received nothing but broken promises and a lack of political backbone," she said.

The White House officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the president's decision before it was announced, said Obama made his decision Friday as he returned to Washington from a NATO summit in Wales.

They said Obama called a few allies from Air Force One to inform them of his decision, and that the president made more calls from the White House on Saturday.

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Competing politics forced Obama delay immigration
House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, accompanied by a U.S. Capitol Police officer, right, walks to the House chamber on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 14, 2015, as lawmakers gather for a vote to fund the Homeland Security Department but will curb President Barack Obama's executive actions on immigration. An Ohio bartender with a history of psychiatric illness was indicted on a charge of threatening to murder Boehner, possibly by poisoning his drink at a country club or shooting him, according to court documents. A grand jury indictment filed in U.S. District Court in Ohio on Jan. 7 identified the accused man as Cincinnati resident Michael R. Hoyt, said the records made available Tuesday. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 14: House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD), speaks about immigration while flanked immigrant family members by during a news conference on Capitol Hill, January 14, 2015 in Washington, DC. Hoyer urged members of Congress not to pass legislation to fund the Department of Homeland Security with attached anti-immigrant amendments. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 14: Isabel Aguilar (R) speaks about immigration while flanked by her children Adolfo Martinez 13 (C), Miranda Aguilar 8 (2ndL), and Emillio Aguilar 7 (L), during a news conference on Capitol Hill, January 14, 2015 in Washington, DC. Ms. Aguilar joined House Democrats to urge members of Congress not to pass legislation to fund the Department of Homeland Security with attached anti-immigrant amendments. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 14: Isabel Aguilar (R) speaks about immigration while flanked by her children Adolfo Martinez 13 (C), Miranda Aguilar 8 (2ndL), and Emillio Aguilar 7 (L), during a news conference on Capitol Hill, January 14, 2015 in Washington, DC. Ms. Aguilar joined House Democrats to urge members of Congress not to pass legislation to fund the Department of Homeland Security with attached anti-immigrant amendments. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI) speaks during a press conference on Capitol Hill January 13, 2015 in Washington, DC. House Democrats spoke about US President Barack Obama's executive actions on immigration. AFP PHOTO/BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) speaks during a press conference on Capitol Hill January 13, 2015 in Washington, DC. House Democrats spoke about US President Barack Obama's executive actions on immigration. AFP PHOTO/BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
(L-R)Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA), Rep. Al Green (D-TX), Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Rep. Juan Vargas (D-CA), Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO), Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) and Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI) attend a press conference on Capitol Hill January 13, 2015 in Washington, DC. House Democrats spoke about US President Barack Obama's executive actions on immigration. AFP PHOTO/BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) receives notes during a press conference on Capitol Hill January 13, 2015 in Washington, DC. House Democrats spoke about US President Barack Obama's executive actions on immigration. AFP PHOTO/BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
Rep. Karen Bass, D-CA, speaks during a press conference on Capitol Hill January 13, 2015 in Washington, DC. House Democrats spoke about US President Barack Obama's executive actions on immigration. AFP PHOTO/BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 13: Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) speaks about immigration during a news conference on Capitol Hill, January 9, 2015 in Washington, DC. Rep. Gutierrez talked about plans to help educate immigrant communities and prepare for the implementation of the executive actions on immigration announced by President Obama in last November. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
Rabih Torbay, senior vice president for international operations at the International Medical Corps., speaks during a press conference on Capitol Hill January 13, 2015 in Washington, DC. House Democrats spoke about US President Barack Obama's executive actions on immigration. AFP PHOTO/BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 13: Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) (C) speaks about immigration while flanked by colleagues during a news conference on Capitol Hill, January 9, 2015 in Washington, DC. Rep. Gutierrez talked about plans to help educate immigrant communities and prepare for the implementation of the executive actions on immigration announced by President Obama in last November. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
Jeremy Konyndyk (L), director of the U.S. Agency for International Development's Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance, and Tom Frieden (R), director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, listen as African Union Ambassador to the US, Amina S. Ali, speaks during a press conference on Capitol Hill January 13, 2015 in Washington, DC. House Democrats spoke about US President Barack Obama's executive actions on immigration. AFP PHOTO/BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
Jeremy Konyndyk, director of the U.S. Agency for International Development's Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance, speaks during a press conference on Capitol Hill January 13, 2015 in Washington, DC. House Democrats spoke about US President Barack Obama's executive actions on immigration. AFP PHOTO/BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
Tom Frieden(2nd-R), director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, speaks during a press conference on Capitol Hill January 13, 2015 in Washington, DC. House Democrats spoke about US President Barack Obama's executive actions on immigration. AFP PHOTO/BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
Sarah Kaba Jones, founder and CEO of FACE Africa, speaks during a press conference on Capitol Hill January 13, 2015 in Washington, DC.House Democrats spoke about US President Barack Obama's executive actions on immigration. AFP PHOTO/BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
Rep. Charles Rangel (R),D-NY, arrives for a press conference on Capitol Hill January 13, 2015 in Washington, DC. House Democrats spoke about US President Barack Obama's executive actions on immigration. AFP PHOTO/BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
Tom Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, arrives for a press conference on Capitol Hill January 13, 2015 in Washington, DC. House Democrats spoke about US President Barack Obama's executive actions on immigration. AFP PHOTO/BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY) speaks during a press conference on Capitol Hill January 13, 2015 in Washington, DC. House Democrats spoke about US President Barack Obama's executive actions on immigration. AFP PHOTO/BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
Jeremy Konyndyk, director of the U.S. Agency for International Development's Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance, speaks during a press conference on Capitol Hill January 13, 2015 in Washington, DC. House Democrats spoke about US President Barack Obama's executive actions on immigration. AFP PHOTO/BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
Tom Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, listens during a press conference on Capitol Hill January 13, 2015 in Washington, DC. House Democrats spoke about US President Barack Obama's executive actions on immigration. AFP PHOTO/BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
From left: Rabih Torbay, senior vice president for international operations at the International Medical Corps, Jeremy Konyndyk, director of the U.S. Agency for International Development's Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance, Gwendolyn Mikell, professor of anthropology and foreign service at Georgetown University, and Tom Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, attend a press conference on Capitol Hill January 13, 2015 in Washington, DC.House Democrats spoke about US President Barack Obama's executive actions on immigration. AFP PHOTO/BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
Rep. Charles Rangel
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 13: Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) speaks about immigration during a news conference on Capitol Hill, January 9, 2015 in Washington, DC. Rep. Gutierrez talked about plans to help educate immigrant communities and prepare for the implementation of the executive actions on immigration announced by President Obama in last November. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 13: Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) (C) speaks about immigration while flanked by colleagues during a news conference on Capitol Hill, January 9, 2015 in Washington, DC. Rep. Gutierrez talked about plans to help educate immigrant communities and prepare for the implementation of the executive actions on immigration announced by President Obama in last November. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio walks back to his office on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 14, 2015, after being on the floor of the House of Representatives. The House is voting on two bills: One that would alter a key section of the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial overhaul in a way that would help banks, and the other would block Obama’s executive actions on immigration, including removal of protections for immigrants who arrived in the country illegally as children. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio walks back to his office on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 14, 2015, after being on the floor of the House of Representatives. The House is voting on two bills: One that would alter a key section of the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial overhaul in a way that would help banks, and the other would block Obama’s executive actions on immigration, including removal of protections for immigrants who arrived in the country illegally as children. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., a leading advocate in the House for comprehensive immigration reform, center, leads a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 13, 2015, with fellow Democrats on the implementation of President Barack Obama's executive actions to spare millions from immediate deportation. Rep. Al Green, D-Texas is at left. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
President Barack Obama speaks various topics including immigration reform and the House of Representatives, Friday, Aug. 1, 2014, in the Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
US citizens Esmeralda Tepetate, 10, with her brother Sebastian, 2, whose parents are originally from Mexico, holds a sign that says "stop separating families" during a rally for comprehensive immigration reform, Friday, Nov. 7, 2014, outside of the White House in Washington. After the midterm elections immigration groups are pushing for executive action. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
US President Barack Obama listens during a naturalization ceremony in the East Room of the White House on July 4, 2014 in Washington, DC. A total of 25 military members, veterans and their spouses became the newest US citizens. AFP PHOTO/Brendan SMIALOWSKI (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
Heather Pina, 6, whose parents are originally from Mexico, attends a rally for comprehensive immigration reform, Friday, Nov. 7, 2014, outside of the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
US President Barack Obama listens to the US National Anthem during a naturalization ceremony in the East Room of the White House on July 4, 2014 in Washington, DC. A total of 25 military members, veterans and their spouses became the newest US citizens. AFP PHOTO/Brendan SMIALOWSKI (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
A woman holds up a sign that says "Don't deport my parents" during a rally for comprehensive immigration reform, Friday, Nov. 7, 2014, outside of the White House in Washington. After the midterm elections immigration groups are pushing for executive action. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
US President Barack Obama listens as new citizens speak the Oath of Allegiance during a naturalization ceremony in the East Room of the White House on July 4, 2014 in Washington, DC. A total of 25 military members, veterans and their spouses became the newest US citizens. AFP PHOTO/Brendan SMIALOWSKI (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama (L) listens as Deputy Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas (R) administers the Oath of Allegiance during a naturalization ceremony in the East Room of the White House on July 4, 2014 in Washington, DC. A total of 25 military members, veterans and their spouses became the newest US citizens. AFP PHOTO/Brendan SMIALOWSKI (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
Light is reflected on Sara Ramirez, of Gaithersberg, Md., as she rallies for comprehensive immigration reform outside the White House in Washington, Friday, Nov. 7, 2014. "I've worked as a community organizer and I've seen the pain of the families," says Ramirez, who is originally from Guatemala, "their pain is immense." (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
President Barack Obama walks across the stage following a naturalization ceremony for active duty service members and civilians, Friday, July 4, 2014, in the East Room of the White House in Washington. Obama highlighted a positive side of the immigration debate by presiding over an Independence Day citizenship ceremony for service members who signed up to defend the U.S. even though they weren't American citizens. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
President Barack Obama smiles with chef Jose Andres, after awarding the chef with a "Outstanding American by Choice" award during a naturalization ceremony for active duty service members and civilians, Friday, July 4, 2014, in the East Room of the White House in Washington. Obama highlighted a positive side of the immigration debate by presiding over an Independence Day citizenship ceremony for service members who signed up to defend the U.S. even though they weren't American citizens. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
President Barack Obama watches at left as Deputy Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas administers the oath of allegiance during a naturalization ceremony for active duty service members and civilians, Friday, July 4, 2014, in the East Room of the White House in Washington. Obama highlighted a positive side of the immigration debate by presiding over an Independence Day citizenship ceremony for service members who signed up to defend the U.S. even though they weren't American citizens. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
President Barack Obama smiles at new citizens during a naturalization ceremony for active duty service members and civilians, Friday, July 4, 2014, in the East Room of the White House in Washington. Obama highlighted a positive side of the immigration debate by presiding over an Independence Day citizenship ceremony for service members who signed up to defend the U.S. even though they weren't American citizens. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
President Barack Obama speaks in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Friday, July 4, 2014, during a naturalization ceremony for active duty service members and civilians. Obama highlighted a positive side of the immigration debate by presiding over an Independence Day citizenship ceremony for service members who signed up to defend the U.S. even though they weren't American citizens. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
President Barack Obama poses for a photo with chef José Andrés following a naturalization ceremony for active duty service members and civilians, Friday, July 4, 2014, in the East Room of th White House in Washington. Andrés was honored with the Outstanding American by Choice recognition by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, an initiative that recognizes the outstanding achievements of naturalized U.S. citizens who have demonstrated their commitment to our country and to the common civic values that unite us as Americans through their civic participation, professional achievements and contributions. José Andrés received his U.S. citizenship in November of 2013, but has been an active member of the community since he arrived to the United States. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
President Barack Obama and Deputy Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas applaud after Mayorkas administered the oath of allegiance during a naturalization ceremony for active duty service members and civilians, Friday, July 4, 2014, in the East Room of the White House in Washington. Obama highlighted a positive side of the immigration debate by presiding over an Independence Day citizenship ceremony for service members who signed up to defend the U.S. even though they weren't American citizens. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
President Barack Obama watches at left as Deputy Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas administers the oath of allegiance during a naturalization ceremony for active duty service members and civilians, Friday, July 4, 2014, in the East Room of the White House in Washington. Obama highlighted a positive side of the immigration debate by presiding over an Independence Day citizenship ceremony for service members who signed up to defend the U.S. even though they weren't American citizens. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
Republican U.S. Sen. Bob Corker speaks to civic groups in Columbia, Tenn., on Thursday, Nov. 6, 2014. Corker criticized some fellow Republicans for equating any effort to address illegal immigration to amnesty. (AP Photo/Erik Schelzig)
People rally for comprehensive immigration reform, Friday, Nov. 7, 2014, outside the White House in Washington. After the midterm elections immigration groups are pushing for executive action. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
People rally for comprehensive immigration reform, Friday, Nov. 7, 2014, outside of the White House in Washington. After the midterm elections immigration groups are pushing for executive action. A theme of the rally was ceasing deportation of parents who are in the United States illegally. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
People rally for comprehensive immigration reform, Friday, Nov. 7, 2014, outside of the White House. After the midterm elections immigration groups are pushing for executive action. A theme of the rally was ceasing deportation of parents who are in the United States illegally. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
People rally for comprehensive immigration reform, Friday, Nov. 7, 2014, outside of the White House in Washington. After the midterm elections immigration groups are pushing for executive action. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference in the East Room of the White House, on Wednesday, Nov. 5, 2014, in Washington. One day after sweeping Republican election gains, President Obama and incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell pledged to try and turn divided government into a force for good rather than gridlock on Wednesday, yet warned of veto showdowns as well. Trade legislation loomed as one possibility for quick compromise, and immigration as an early irritant. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
President Barack Obama arrives to a news conference in the East Room of the White House, on Wednesday, Nov. 5, 2014, in Washington.One day after sweeping Republican election gains, President Obama and incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell pledged to try and turn divided government into a force for good rather than gridlock on Wednesday, yet warned of veto showdowns as well. Trade legislation loomed as one possibility for quick compromise, and immigration as an early irritant. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
Anjali Gautam, of Bhutan, poses with her certificate of citizenship as her father, Shyam, snaps a picture during a Halloween-themed naturalization ceremony, Friday, Oct. 31, 2014, in Baltimore. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services welcomed 38 children, many of whom came dressed in Halloween costumes, from 18 countries. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
Yassin Elalamy, of Egypt, from left, Ezra Dessie, of Ethiopia, and Hilary Suarez, of the Dominican Republic, recite the pledge of allegiance during a Halloween-themed naturalization ceremony, Friday, Oct. 31, 2014, in Baltimore. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services welcomed 38 children, many of whom came dressed in Halloween costumes, from 18 countries. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
U.S. President Barack Obama, right, speaks while meeting with bipartisan members of Congress including U.S. House Speaker John Boehner, a Republican from Ohio, in the Old Family Dining Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Friday, Nov. 7, 2014. Top Republicans met with President Obama today after warning him that changing U.S. immigration policy without involving Congress would invite 'big trouble' and make a future compromise impossible. Photographer: Dennis Brack/Pool via Bloomberg
U.S. President Barack Obama, right, speaks while meeting with bipartisan members of Congress including House Republican Whip Kevin McCarthy, a Republican from California, from left, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat from California, and U.S. House Speaker John Boehner, a Republican from Ohio, in the Old Family Dining Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Friday, Nov. 7, 2014. Top Republicans met with President Obama today after warning him that changing U.S. immigration policy without involving Congress would invite 'big trouble' and make a future compromise impossible. Photographer: Dennis Brack/Pool via Bloomberg
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Obama went to the White House Rose Garden on June 30 to angrily declare that House Speaker John Boehner had informed him that the Republican-controlled House would not be taking up any measures to overhaul the immigration system. As a result, he said, he had directed Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson and Attorney General Eric Holder to give him recommendations for executive action by the end of summer. Obama also pledged to "adopt those recommendations without further delay."

By delaying, the White House weighed the benefits of acting now and running the risk of immigration getting blamed for any Democratic losses, especially in the Senate where Democratic control hangs in the balance.

Among those considered most at risk were Democratic Sens. Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and Kay Hagan of North Carolina.

Obama advisers were not convinced that any presidential action would affect the elections. But the officials said the discussions around timing grew more pronounced within the past few weeks.

Ultimately, the advisers drew a lesson from 1994 when Democratic losses were blamed on votes for gun-control legislation, undermining any interest in passing future gun measures.

White House officials said aides realized that if Obama's immigration action was deemed responsible for Democratic losses this year, it could hurt any attempt to pass a broad overhaul later on.

"We are bitterly disappointed in the president and we are bitterly disappointed in the Senate Democrats," said Frank Sharry, executive director of America's Voice. "We advocates didn't make the reform promise; we just made the mistake of believing it. The president and Senate Democrats have chosen politics over people, the status quo over solving real problems."

Republican leaders in Congress also criticized the president, calling his decision a cynical ploy.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Obama's move amounted to "Washington politics at its worst."

"What's so cynical about today's immigration announcement is that the president isn't saying he'll follow the law, he's just saying he'll go around the law once it's too late for Americans to hold his party accountable in the November elections," McConnell said. "This is clearly not decision-making designed around the best policy."

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, in a statement on Saturday, said the decision to delay, rather than abandon, the idea of executive action on immigration "smacks of raw politics."

"Any unilateral action will only further strain the bonds of trust between the White House and the people they are supposed to serve," Boehner said.

Partisan fighting erupted recently over how to address the increased flow of unaccompanied minors from Central America at the U.S. border with Mexico. The officials said the White House had not envisioned such a battle when Obama made his pledge June 30.

Since then, the number of minors caught alone illegally crossing the Mexican border into the United States has been declining. That decrease and Congress' absence from Washington during August has taken attention away from the border for now.

Still, the dispute over how to deal with the surge of Central American border crossers threatened to spill over into the larger debate over immigration and the fate of 11 million immigrants in the United States who either entered illegally or overstayed their visas and have been in the U.S. for some time.

The Democratic-led Senate last year passed a broad overhaul of immigration that boosted border security, increased visas for legal immigrants and a provided a path to citizenship for immigrants illegally in the country.

But the Republican-controlled House balked at acting on any broad measure.

During a news conference Friday in Wales, Obama reiterated his determination to act on his own even as he avoided making a commitment on timing. He also spelled out ambitious objectives for his executive actions.

Obama said that without legislation from Congress, he would take steps to increase border security, upgrade the processing of border crossers and encourage legal immigration. He also said he would offer immigrants who have been illegally in the United States for some time a way to become legal residents, pay taxes, pay a fine and learn English.

By delaying his executive action, Obama increases the pressure for him to take the broadest measures that he believes his authority allows, perhaps freeing a sizable portion of the 11 million immigrants illegally in the United States from the fear of deportation.

"I want to be very clear: My intention is, in the absence of ... action by Congress, I'm going to do what I can do within the legal constraints of my office, because it's the right thing to do for the country," he said Friday.

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