Obama previews immigration-reform announcement

President Obama will announce on Thursday that he will take executive action to advance long-stalled reforms of the nation’s immigration policy, mainly by lifting the threat of deportation for law-abiding undocumented immigrants with citizen or legal-resident family members in the country.

The president confirmed the news Wednesday afternoon in a video posted to Facebook.

“Everybody agrees that our immigration system is broken,” he said, sitting casually on his Oval Office desk. “Unfortunately Washington has allowed the problem to fester for too Long. And so what I’m going to be laying out is the things I can do with my lawful authority as president to make the system work better even as I continue to work with Congress and encourage them to get a bipartisan comprehensive bill that can solve the entire problem.”

The formal announcement of the planned executive action is scheduled for Thursday night at 8 p.m. Obama will then travel to Nevada on Friday to elaborate on the move.

The action on deportations may well affect more than 5 million people now living illegally in the country.

Frustrated immigration reform advocates are applauding the move. Congress for years has been tied up by hard-line opponents of any reform that would include the kind of “amnesty” that would halt deportations, even though finding and deporting the millions of undocumented immigrants who live and work in the country is well beyond the scope of law enforcement.

Republican members of Congress have argued that the president’s planned action is an unconstitutional workaround the legislative process, though most legal scholars disagree with that characterization. The president has the power as the chief executive to lay out rules to enact laws, including laws governing immigrant deportations. Past presidents, including Republicans George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan, took similar if likely smaller actions.

In a blog post, the White House echoed Obama’s description of the move when it referred to it as “a step forward in the president’s plan to work with Congress on passing common-sense, comprehensive immigration reform.”

Republicans have said that the action would sour relations between the White House and Capitol Hill and promise a rocky road ahead in negotiations between the White House and what will be a two-chamber Republican-controlled Congress next year.

The executive action in no way would prevent Congress from passing any variety of immigration-reform legislation its members and leaders can agree to pass.