One of President Barack Obama’s key immigration reform plans could be challenged by the Supreme Court.
The plan would lift the threat of deportation from 5 million migrants living illegally in the US.
A coalition of 26 mostly conservative states, led by Texas, has been successful in lower court challenges.
A decision from the Supreme Court is expected in the early summer, just as the election gets into full swing.
“We are confident that the policies will be upheld as lawful,” said White House spokeswoman Brandi Hoffine.
President Barack Obama announced the plan, known as Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA), in November 2014.
He justified using his presidential powers, without Congress, by saying it was in response to inaction over the issue of immigration from Congress.
If allowed to go forward, it would allow people who have lived in the US for more than five years and who have children who are living in the country legally to apply for work authorization.
In announcing the plan, Barack Obama said it would allow those who qualify to “come out of the shadows and get right with the law”.
Challenges to the plan began shortly after President Barack Obama’s announcement, with a federal court in Texas effectively putting a pause on it in February.
The Obama administration lost an appeal in November, keeping the injunction in place.
The White House has vowed to kickstart the program if the Supreme Court was to rule in its favor, so that migrants could began enrolling before a new president takes office in January 2017.
One of the largest questions looming over the case is whether the state challengers have the right to do so.
Texas argues it will have to spend millions of dollars to provide driver’s licenses to people who are part of the program.
The issue of immigration has become a controversial and polarizing issue in the 2016 presidential race.
Leading Democrat presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has said she would maintain and expand President Barack Obama’s reforms, while Republican front runner Donald Trump has said he would reverse the reforms and step up enforcement.
President Barack Obama has defended plans to use his overriding executive powers to push through changes to the US immigration system.
Barack Obama said Congress had been given ample opportunity to come up with its own plan but had failed to act.
Republicans in Congress say such action would be beyond Barack Obama’s authority.
His remarks follow media reports he plans to extend protection from deportation, potentially affecting as many as five million immigrants.
At a news briefing during a visit to Myanmar, Barack Obama said he had given the House of Representatives more than a year to come up with an immigration bill but they had failed to do so.
The Senate passed a far-reaching immigration bill in 2013, but the House has not taken up the legislation.
“There has been ample opportunity for Congress to pass a bipartisan immigration bill that would strengthen our borders, improve the legal immigration system and lift millions of people out of the shadows,” he said.
“I said that if in fact Congress failed to act, I would use all the lawful authority I possess to try to make the system work better,” the president added.
“And that’s going to happen before the end of the year.”
Barack Obama added that as soon as Congress passed a bill he could sign, “any executive actions will be replaced”.
However, Republicans in Congress said the president should work with them.
“We’re going to fight the president tooth and nail if he continues down this path,” House Speaker John Boehner told reporters.
Mitch McConnell, the incoming Senate majority leader, urged the president to “work with us to try to find a way to improve our immigration system”.
Some Republicans are pushing for the budget bill to include a statement prohibiting “the use of appropriated funds for the president’s immigration machinations”.
Such a move could provoke a block by the Democrats, or a veto by the president, which in turn raises the risk of a government shutdown.
Unilateral action has been expected on immigration but details of what the president was considering were first reported this week in the New York Times and Fox News.
At the centre of the reports is a plan to extend Barack Obama’s “deferred action” plan, which was designed to protect young adults who were brought to the US illegally as children from being deported.
The plan is to include parents of children who are US citizens or legal residents.
The action is designed to prevent the break-up of families via deportations. The number of those affected by the suggested policy is based on how long an individual has lived in the US.
If the administration limits the “deferred action” to those who have lived in the US for more than 10 years, it would affect 2.5 million undocumented immigrants, experts estimate.
If the time limit is lowered to five years, it would stop deportations for as many as 3.3 million.
Other parts of the executive action reported by the media include: increasing the number of high-tech workers allowed to live and work in the US; an expansion of the existing deferred action plans that would move the cut-off date for children arriving to 2010; shift border security resources to the US southern border, according to reports.
President Barack Obama will delay taking executive action on immigration until after the midterm elections in November, White House officials said on September 6.
The president bows to pressure from fellow Democrats who feared that acting now could doom his party’s chances this fall.
In June 2014, Barack Obama promised to use executive orders that were expected to change visa rules, boost border security and give a path to citizenship for some 11 million US-based illegal immigrants.
Each year tens of thousands try to get into the US from Mexico.
President Barack Obama will delay taking executive action on immigration until after the midterm elections in November
Many are unaccompanied children, and Barack Obama has called the situation a “humanitarian crisis”.
Barack Obama has spent years promising immigration reform, but has been thwarted by Republicans in Congress.
White House officials said that the Republicans’ “extreme politicization of this issue” meant it would be harmful to the long-term prospects for reform to take action before the election.
Officials said immigration reform would still be forced through before the end of the year.
Analysts say the move is likely to benefit some Democrats up for re-election in November in closely fought seats.
Immigration advocacy group United We Dream called the delay a “slap to the face of the Latino and immigrant community”.
The immigration bill that would offer a chance of citizenship to millions living in the US illegally has taken a stride forward in Congress.
A Senate panel voted 13-5 to back the measure, after a plan to allow people to sponsor same-s** partners for permanent legal status was withdrawn.
The full Senate will now debate the proposal next month.
The bill is widely seen as the biggest overhaul of US immigration policy in more than a quarter of a century.
But lawmakers’ last attempt at immigration reform was more recent – a bipartisan bill failed in the Senate in 2007.
After Tuesday evening’s vote, immigration activists who had crowded into the Senate judiciary committee room cheered.
In a statement, President Barack Obama congratulated the panel.
Barack Obama said the bill was “largely consistent with the principles of common sense reform I have proposed and meets the challenge of fixing our broken immigration system”.
The president added he was “hopeful” the amendment process would “lead to further improvements”.
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said he would not block the measure from coming to the floor for a full debate, but did not say how he planned to vote.
Three Republicans joined all 10 Democrats on the committee in voting for the bill.
The immigration bill that would offer a chance of citizenship to millions living in the US illegally has taken a stride forward in Congress
Approval came after committee members agreed to a Republican move to ease visa restrictions on hiring skilled workers from countries such as China and India.
The Democratic chairman of the committee, Patrick Leahy, also withdrew an amendment that would have allowed people to sponsor same-sex partners, who are foreigners, for permanent legal status.
“I don’t want to be the senator who asks people to choose between the love of their life and the love of their country,” Senator Patrick Leahy said.
The bill’s supporters had asked him to remove the proposal in order to save the legislation.
“I believe in my heart of hearts that what you’re doing is the right and just thing,” Democrat Senator Richard Durbin said.
“But I believe this is the wrong moment, that this is the wrong bill.”
At the centre of the legislation is a provision that would allow the estimated 11 million people living in the US illegally to obtain “registered provisional immigrant status”, six months after the bill’s enactment if certain conditions are met.
That status is the beginning of a 13-year process that would one day allow immigrants to be eligible to apply for a green card.
The bill also includes provisions to strengthen border security along the US-Mexican border, using additional agents and drones.
The president of the powerful AFL-CIO union group, Rich Trumka, attacked the last-minute deal allowing an increase in the number visas for hi-tech specialists as “anti-worker”.
But he said organized labor would continue to support the larger bill.
In the other chamber of Congress, the House of Representatives, immigration legislation is due to receive a hearing in the judiciary committee on Wednesday.
The latest push for reform follows Barack Obama’s announcement last June that the US would allow young undocumented workers who immigrated as children to apply for two-year, renewable visas.
Republicans have increasingly embraced the idea of immigration reform after a large majority of Hispanic voters supported Barack Obama in last year’s election.
President Barack Obama has urged US Congress to back government action to revive the country’s sluggish economy, in his annual State of the Union speech.
Barack Obama promised “smarter” rather than bigger government for “the many, and not just the few”.
He also called for action on gun violence, climate change and immigration reform.
In the Republican response, Senator Marco Rubio urged Barack Obama to drop his “obsession” with raising taxes.
Speaking in the House of Representatives, Barack Obama told his audience that his generation’s task was “to reignite the true engine of America’s economic growth – a rising, thriving middle class”.
“We have cleared away the rubble of crisis, and we can say with renewed confidence that the state of our union is strong,” Barack Obama said in an hour-long address.
Delivering growth and jobs will be the “North Star that guides our efforts”, he added.
But he insisted that nothing he planned would raise the deficit “by a single dime”.
Barack Obama proposed reforms to reduce the cost of Medicare, a federal healthcare programme for pensioners, but argued “we can’t just cut our way to prosperity”.
In his speech, Barack Obama went on to call for federal investment in infrastructure, clean energy and education.
And he vowed to act on climate change himself if Congress failed to enact legislation.
“I urge this Congress to pursue a bipartisan, market-based solution to climate change…,” he said.
“But if Congress won’t act sooner to protect future generations, I will. I will direct my cabinet to come up with executive actions we can take, now and in the future, to reduce pollution, prepare our communities for the consequences of climate change, and speed the transition to more sustainable sources of energy.”
President Barack Obama has urged US Congress to back government action to revive the country’s sluggish economy, in his annual State of the Union speech
Barack Obama also said he would reduce by more than half the number of US troops in Afghanistan over the next year.
He asked Congress to raise the minimum wage, called for legislation to ensure women are paid equally to men, and announced a commission to improve the voting process.
On gun control, Barack Obama said an “overwhelming” majority of Americans supported “common-sense reform” on firearms, including tighter background checks and restrictions on “weapons of war and massive ammunition magazines”.
And he urged gun-control opponents to allow a vote in Congress on his proposals.
“The families of Oak Creek, and Tucson, and Blacksburg, and the countless other communities ripped open by gun violence – they deserve a simple vote,” the president said.
He also praised bipartisan efforts to draw up an immigration reform bill, adding that if he is sent legislation: “I will sign it right away.”
Less than a day after North Korea tested a nuclear device, Barack Obama said the US will “lead the world in taking firm action in response to these threats”.
Barack Obama will take to the road in the coming days to push his economic recovery proposals, stopping in the US states of North Carolina and Georgia and in his hometown of Chicago, Illinois.
Senator Marco Rubio, a possible 2016 Republican presidential candidate, delivered his party’s official riposte.
In it, he attacked Barack Obama’s economic policies and said “more government isn’t going to help you get ahead, it’s going to hold you back”.
The Cuban-American senator, who also made his address in Spanish, referred to the pain felt by residents of the working-class neighborhood in which he grew up.
He told Barack Obama: “I don’t oppose your plans because I want to protect the rich. I oppose your plans because I want to protect my neighbors.”
The Florida senator also warned the president that the “tax increases and the deficit spending you propose will hurt middle-class families”.
Underscoring conservative divisions, immediately after the Rubio speech Kentucky Republican Senator Rand Paul delivered the Tea Party’s rebuttal to Barack Obama’s address.
He said both parties had failed voters by driving up trillion-dollar deficits.
In a conference call with his national finance committee on Wednesday, Republican Mitt Romney attributes his election loss to President Barack Obama’s “gifts” that he bestowed on minorities and young people during his first term.
Mitt Romney said Barack Obama’s win was buoyed in large part by loyal Democratic constituencies including the poor that he had promised “free health care”, the immigrants that he had protected from deportation and the college-aged women that he had offered free contraceptives.
“You can imagine for somebody making $25,000 or $30,000 or $35,000 a year, being told you’re now going to get free health care, particularly if you don’t have it, getting free health care worth, what, $10,000 per family, in perpetuity? I mean, this is huge.”
“Likewise, with Hispanic voters, free health care was a big plus,” he added.
“But in addition with regards to Hispanic voters, the amnesty for children of illegals, the so-called DREAM Act kids, was a huge plus for that voting group.”
Barack Obama announced in June that he would grant temporary amnesty to some children of undocumented immigrants who met certain requirements and had clean criminal records. The program resembled the DREAM Act, which had long been stalled in Congress.
Mitt Romney chided Barack Obama over the summer for waiting so long to address immigration reform, charging that his amnesty program was politically motivated.
“He saves these sort of things until four-and-a-half months before the general election,” Mitt Romney said in June on CBS’ Face the Nation.
“I think the timing is pretty clear. If he really wanted a solution that dealt with these kids or illegal immigration in America, then this is something he would have taken up in his first three-and-a-half years, not in his last few months.”
Now Mitt Romney is saying that the program is what persuaded Hispanics to support Barack Obama.
Mitt Romney attributes his election loss to Barack Obama’s gifts that he bestowed on minorities and young people during his first term
Mitt Romney won 59% of the white vote, while Barack Obama was backed by 93% of black voters, 71% of Latinos and 60% of voters younger than 30, according to exit polls.
He said that Barack Obama directed his campaign according to the “old playbook” of targeting specific groups with promises of legislation that would persuade them to vote a certain way.
“In each case they were very generous in what they gave to those groups,” Mitt Romney said.
“With regards to the young people, for instance, a forgiveness of college loan interest, was a big gift,” Mitt Romney said.
“Free contraceptives were very big with young college-aged women. And then, finally, Obamacare also made a difference for them, because as you know, anybody now 26 years of age and younger was now going to be part of their parents’ plan, and that was a big gift to young people.
“They turned out in large numbers, a larger share in this election even than in 2008,” Mitt Romney said.
Similarly, Paul Ryan, Mitt Romney’s running mate, blamed the Republican ticket’s loss on high turnout among “urban” voters.
“I think the surprise was some of the turnout, some of the turnout especially in urban areas, which gave President Obama the big margin to win this race,” Paul Ryan told a television station in Wisconsin.
“When we watched Virginia and Ohio coming in, and those ones coming in as tight as they were, and looking like we were going to lose them, that’s when it became clear we weren’t going to win.”
Mitt Romney told his finance team that the sting of his loss was still too strong to begin mapping out his plans going forward for himself and for the Republican Party.
“I am very sorry that we didn’t win,” he said.
“I know that you expected to win. We expected to win… It was very close, but close doesn’t count in this business.”
Mitt Romney added: “And so now we’re looking and saying, <<O.K., what can we do going forward?>>. But frankly we’re still so troubled by the past, it’s hard to put together our plans from the future.”
Barack Obama’s “gifts”
Mitt Romney says President Barack Obama targeted blacks, Hispanics and young people with certain “gifts” including:
Obamacare’s provisions allowing children to stay on their parents’ health insurance plans through age 26
A program that caps federal student loan payments at 10% of income and forgives any remaining debt after 20 years of consistent payments
Temporary deportation exemptions granted to young illegal immigrants who meet certain requirements
Requirement that most employers provide health insurance covering birth control