Obama: I'll act on my own on immigration

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Obama: I'll act on my own on immigration
Senator Ted Cruz, a Republican from Texas, speaks during a news conference on the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) funding bill with Representative John Carter, a Republican from Texas, right, in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, Feb. 12, 2015. The DHS is operating under a continuing resolution that expires on Feb 27 with a stalemate over whether the must-pass measure should carry riders to upend President Barack Obama's immigration policies continuing to threaten passage of the legislation. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Senator Ted Cruz, a Republican from Texas, speaks during a news conference on the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) funding bill in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, Feb. 12, 2015. The DHS is operating under a continuing resolution that expires on Feb 27 with a stalemate over whether the must-pass measure should carry riders to upend President Barack Obama's immigration policies continuing to threaten passage of the legislation. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Senator Ted Cruz, a Republican from Texas, right, gestures while talking to Representative John Culberson, a Republican from Texas, after a news conference on the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) funding bill in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, Feb. 12, 2015. The DHS is operating under a continuing resolution that expires on Feb 27 with a stalemate over whether the must-pass measure should carry riders to upend President Barack Obama's immigration policies continuing to threaten passage of the legislation. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Senator Jeff Sessions, a Republican from Alabama, speaks during a news conference on the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) funding bill with Senator Dan Sullivan, a Republican from Arkansas, right, in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, Feb. 12, 2015. The DHS is operating under a continuing resolution that expires on Feb 27 with a stalemate over whether the must-pass measure should carry riders to upend President Barack Obama's immigration policies continuing to threaten passage of the legislation. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
US President Barack Obama speaks about immigration reform during a meeting with young immigrants, known as DREAMers, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC, February 4, 2015. The group has received Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which provides relief from deportation for immigrants who arrived in the US illegally before they were 16 years old. AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 10: Heather Pina-Ledezma, 6, holds the hand of her mother Madai Ledezma, 32, from Mexico, now living in Maryland, during a news conference with Democratic Senators to discuss U.S. President Barack Obama's executive order on immigration, on Capitol Hill, December 10, 2014 in Washington, DC. President Obama traveled to Nashville, Tennessee on Tuesday, where he defended his actions on immigration and again called on Congress to pass an immigration bill. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
Protesters wave signs as US President Barack Obama arrives to speak about his recent executive actions on immigration on December 9, 2014 at the Casa Azafran, a community center and home to a number of immigrant-related nonprofit organizations, in Nashville, Tennessee. Obama's controversial overhaul provides three-year relief for millions of undocumented people who have lived in the country for more than five years and have children that are US citizens or legal residents. AFP PHOTO/NICHOLAS KAMM (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama greets attendees after speaking about his recent executive actions on immigration on December 9, 2014 at the Casa Azafran, a community center and home to a number of immigrant-related nonprofit organizations, in Nashville, Tennessee. Obama's controversial overhaul provides three-year relief for millions of undocumented people who have lived in the country for more than five years and have children that are US citizens or legal residents. AFP PHOTO/NICHOLAS KAMM (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 21: Immigrants rights activists gather to celebrate U.S. President Barack Obama's executive action on immigration policy in Washington Square Park on November 21, 2014 in New York City. Obama announced a plan on Thursday that would ease the threat of deportation for about 4.7 million undocumented immigrants in the United States. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - NOVEMBER 21: Immigration activist Astrid Silva introduces U.S. President Barack Obama to speak on his executive action on U.S. immigration policy at Del Sol High School on November 21, 2014 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Obama outlined a plan on Thursday to ease the threat of deportation for about 4.7 million undocumented immigrants. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 21: About 100 people gather to rally in support of President Barack Obama's executive action on immigration policy in Lafayette Square across from the White House November 21, 2014 in Washington, DC. Obama announced a plan on Thursday that would ease the threat of deportation for about 4.7 million undocumented immigrants in the United States. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 21: An anti-immigration demonstrator moves among about 100 people who have gathered to rally in support of President Barack Obama's executive action on immigration policy in Lafayette Square across from the White House November 21, 2014 in Washington, DC. Obama announced a plan on Thursday that would ease the threat of deportation for about 4.7 million undocumented immigrants in the United States. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama delivers remarks on the new steps he will be taking within his executive authority on immigration at Del Sol High School in Las Vegas, Nevada, November 21, 2014. AFP PHOTO / Jim WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
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By Jim Kuhnhenn and Erica Werner

WASHINGTON (AP) -- In the face of an unyielding Congress, President Barack Obama said Monday he will no longer wait for Republicans to act on immigration and will move on his own to make policy changes in what has been a top second-term priority of his presidency.

Obama said he will refocus immigration enforcement onto a Mexican border that has seen a tide of children crossing illegally from Central America. That means putting resources into deporting people who are the most recent border-crossers or individuals who pose a threat to public safety and national security.

"I take executive action only when we have a serious problem, a serious issue, and Congress chooses to do nothing," Obama said. "And in this situation, the failure of House Republicans to pass a darn bill is bad for our security, it's bad for our economy and it's bad for our future."

Obama said he decided to bypass Congress after House speaker John Boehner informed him last week that the House would not vote on an immigration overhaul this year. A congressional leadership aide said Obama and Boehner spoke privately before an event last week at the white House honoring U.S. golfers who won last year's Presidents Cup.

Obama's Action On Immigration Amplifies Feud With Boehner

Obama said there are enough Republicans and Democrats in the House to pass an immigration bill today, and says he would sign it.

But Obama said he's waited for more than a year to give Boehner space to act.

Obama said the thousands of unaccompanied children showing up on the border underscore the need to drop the politics and act on immigration.

Obama's decision effectively declares that a broad based change in immigration policy is dead for the year, and perhaps for the remainder of his administration. Changing immigration laws and providing a path to citizenship for about 11 million immigrants in the country illegally has been one Obama's top priorities as he sought to conclude his presidency with major second-term victory.

Obama's ability to undertake changes on his own is limited.

He is instructing Homeland Security Department Secretary Jeh Johnson and Attorney General Eric Holder to present him with executive actions he can take without congressional approval by the end of the summer.

Still, in responding to the influx of unaccompanied children, Obama plans to concentrate immigration resources on the border areas. The move will effectively further reduce the number of deportations in the country's interior by stressing enforcement action on individuals who are either recent unlawful border crossers or who present a national security, public safety, or border security threat.

The decision coincides with a White House request to Congress for new powers to deport newly arrived immigrant children traveling without their parents.

As such, Obama's actions represent a delicate balancing act between responding to what the White House has called a "humanitarian crisis" over unaccompanied children and a demand from immigration activists to reduce the administration's record number of deportations.

Deportations have spiked under the Obama administration to a total of around 2 million so far - the same number removed during the full eight years of the Bush administration. At the same time, formal removals from the interior have decreased each year of the Obama administration, while the number of deportations from the border has increased.

The Obama administration also has taken steps already to focus deportations on people with more serious criminal records or those who pose a threat. But this so-called "prosecutorial discretion," while harshly criticized by Republicans, never succeeded in calming concerns in immigrant communities about how deportations are conducted.

Obama on Monday was dropping by a meeting at the White House among immigration overhaul advocates and Chief of Staff Denis McDonough and Obama senior adviser Valerie Jarrett. Many of those advocates reacted harshly to Obama's plan Monday to seek emergency money from Congress that would, among other things, help conduct "an aggressive deterrence strategy focused on the removal and repatriation of recent border crossers."

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