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Reports: Obama Will Approve Immigrant Work Permits For Millions

Following on a pledge to use his office's discretionary powers to adjust the U.S. approach to immigration, President Obama reportedly plans to remove the threat of deportation for up to 5 million people who entered the U.S. illegally.

The administration's shift in approach was reported by The New York Times, which cited "administration officials who have direct knowledge of the plan."

The White House did not confirm the plan's details Thursday, but press secretary Josh Earnest said that Obama "is still planning to make some decisions and announce them prior to the end of this calendar year. That should be an indication to you that the President is nearing a final decision."

Earnest added that the president has met with Homeland Secretary Jeh Johnson and Attorney General Eric Holder.

The details of the executive actions are still being finalized, but it could "avert 5 million deportations," the Times says.

It would also likely trigger an angry response from Republicans such as House Speaker John Boehner, who recently called the White House approach "executive amnesty."

A formal announcement of the plan could come next week, the Times says.

Fox News is reporting similar details, saying the Obama administration is reviewing "10 initiatives that span everything from boosting border security to improving pay for immigration officers," adding that "the most controversial pertain to the millions who could get a deportation reprieve under what is known as 'deferred action.' "

One phase of the White House's plan would reportedly let the parents of American citizens or legal residents acquire legal work papers, even if the parents didn't come to the U.S. legally.

"That part of Mr. Obama's plan alone could affect as many as 3.3 million people who have been living in the United States illegally for at least five years," the Times says, adding that another version of the plan would require the immigrants to have lived in the U.S. for at least 10 years.

Reports of the White House plan come a week after President Obama urged Congress to take up immigration reform, citing a crisis along U.S. borders.

"There's a cost to waiting," the president said, one day after the midterm elections. He added that his actions would be nullified by laws that Congress passes.

If he issues the executive orders, the move would come months after Obama seemed poised to take such action. He delayed the move after his fellow Democrats complained it could hurt their campaigns, as NPR's Sam Sanders recently reported.

"We're deporting people that shouldn't be deported," the president said last Sunday on CBS's Face The Nation. "We're not deporting folks that are dangerous and need to be deported."

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Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.