President Obama / Saul Loeb, AFP/Getty Images
President Obama indicated Friday he might take executive action on immigration before the November congressional elections, but made no commitments on timing or specifics.
Speaking to reporters at the end of a NATO summit in Wales, Obama said he has begun receiving immigration recommendations from Attorney General Eric Holder and Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson.
"I suspect that on my flight back, this'll be part of my reading, taking a look at some of the specifics that we've looked at," Obama said. "And I'll be making an announcement soon."
Obama - who is considering action that could allow millions of undocumented workers to stay in the country - also said, "My expectation is that fairly soon, I'll be considering what the next steps are."
Some Democratic supporters have urged Obama to issue executive orders that would essentially lead to work permits for millions of immigrants who are in the country illegally.
Republicans have denounced such proposals as "amnesty" for law breakers. GOP members made the same protest in opposing an Obama-backed immigration bill that would have provided a pathway to citizenship for those already in the country illegally.
Immigration is a major issue in some congressional races, as Republicans seek to hold their majority in the U.S. House and win control of the Senate - and some Democrats are urging the president to wait until after the Nov. 4 elections to take take major action on immigration.
Earlier this year, Obama had pledged to take action by the end of the summer.
Asked about the impact of the election, Obama did not specify what actions he might take, but pledged improvements to the immigration system in the absence of congressional legislation.
That includes "more resources on the border," and faster processing of migrants who are caught making illegal crossings, Obama said.
The president also said he is looking for ways "to encourage legal immigration and give people some path, so that they can start paying taxes, and then pay a fine and learn English and be able to not look over their shoulder but be legal, since they've been living here for quite some time."
Obama is under cross pressures from long-time supporters over the immigration issue this election season.
Cesar Vargas of the DREAM Action Coalition - which has criticized the administration's deportation policies - called on Obama to stop "word games" and to act on changes to the system.
"It's not a big deal if Democrats side with political survival, but they are accepting bad politics by delaying immigration," Vargas said. "This year's races will be won by small margins. Why not energize a base, including the deciding base, that will help you win by showing voters unwavering leadership that stands up to extremism and obstruction?"
Meanwhile, some Democratic senators facing tough re-election battles - such as Kay Hagan in North Carolina and Mark Pryor in Arkansas - say the immigration issue needs to be addressed by Congress, not presidential executive order.
The Democratic-run Senate passed an immigration bill last year with some Republican support, but it has been blocked by the Republican-run House.
"In the absence of action by Congress," Obama said, "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."
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