Published November 13, 2014
EXCLUSIVE: President Obama is planning to unveil a 10-part plan for overhauling U.S. immigration policy via executive action -- including suspending deportations for millions -- as early as next Friday, a source close to the White House told Fox News.
The president's plans were contained in a draft proposal from a U.S. government agency. The source said the plan could be announced as early as Nov. 21, though the date might slip a few days pending final White House approval.
Obama was briefed at the White House by Homeland Security officials before leaving on his Asia-Pacific trip last week, Fox News has learned.
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters traveling with Obama in Burma Thursday that the president had not made a final decision on any executive actions concerning immigration and would not announce any until he returned to Washington.
The draft plan, though, contains 10 initiatives that span everything from boosting border security to improving pay for immigration officers.
But the most controversial pertain to the millions who could get a deportation reprieve under what is known as "deferred action."
The plan calls for expanding deferred action for illegal immigrants who came to the U.S. as children -- but also for the parents of U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents. The latter could allow upwards of 4.5 million illegal immigrant adults with U.S.-born children to stay, according to estimates.
Critics in the Senate say those who receive deferred action, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, receive work authorization in the United States, Social Security numbers and government-issued IDs.
Another portion that is sure to cause consternation among anti-"amnesty" lawmakers is a plan to expand deferred action for young people. In June 2012, Obama created such a program 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.
One of the architects for the president's planned executive actions at DHS is Esther Olavarria, the late Sen. Ted Kennedy's former top immigration lawyer.
Under the changes, Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers also would see a pay raise in order to "increase morale" within the ICE workforce.
DHS also is planning to "promote" the new naturalization process by giving a 50 percent discount on the first 10,000 applicants who come forward, with the exception of those who have income levels above 200 percent of the poverty level.
Tech jobs though a State Department immigrant visa program would offer another half-million immigrants a path to citizenship. This would include their spouses as well.
The other measures include calls to revise removal priorities to target serious criminals for deportation and end the program known as "Secure Communities" and start a new program. The planning comes as immigrant advocates urge Obama to act. As lawmakers returned for a lame-duck session, Democrats in Congress on Wednesday implored Obama to take executive action.
"We're begging the president. Go big. These [illegal immigrants] are a plus to our nation. Mr. President, please. You said you were going to do something. Do it. Act now," said Rep. Juan Vargas, D-Calif. House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer said: "I join with my colleagues in urging the president to take action. What he needs to do is give immediate relief to families who are being wrenched apart and living in fear."
Angela Maria Kelley, vice president for immigration policy at the Center for American Progress, touted executive action as a "tried and true component of immigration policy used by 11 presidents, 39 times in the last 60 years."
She said for many undocumented immigrants who have been here for years, "there is no line for people to get into." Obama has vowed to act in the absence of congressional action and has claimed that congressional action could still supersede his executive steps. That claim was restated by Earnest, who said Thursday that if the House approved an immigration reform bill previously passed by the Senate, Obama would "retract" any executive order.
In a recent op-ed in Politico, Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., said Congress would stop Obama from taking executive action by adding language explicitly barring money from being used for that purpose. "Congress has the power of the purse. The president cannot spend a dime unless Congress appropriates it," Sessions wrote. He also pointed out that similar language in the past has prevented the president from closing the Guantanamo Bay prison camp.