President Barack Obama is under fire from immigration activists for delaying promised reforms until after midterm elections in November.
Mr. Obama explained his decision to delay in an interview with NBC News, excerpts of which were aired on Saturday evening.
“When I take executive action, I want to make sure that it’s sustainable,” he said.
“I want to spend some time (making) sure that the public understands why we’re doing this, why it’s the right thing for the American people, why it’s the right thing for the American economy.”
Since June, Mr. Obama has promised to take executive action on immigration reform at the end of the summer. The Senate has adopted a bipartisan immigration Bill, but the Republican-controlled House of Representatives has refused to consider it.
The United Farm Workers union was among the activist groups that accused Mr. Obama of breaking his promise.
“Justice delayed is justice denied,” union president Arturo Rodriguez said. “Consequently hardworking immigrants will continue to be vulnerable, exploited, and not receive the respect and dignity they deserve.” The White House said Mr. Obama was delaying action because of the “political season” and the “Republicans’ extreme politicisation of the issue.”
All 435 seats in the House of Representatives are up for election on November 4, along with one-third of the Senate’s 100 seats.
Over the summer, tens of thousands of unaccompanied and undocumented children, most of them from Central America, have overwhelmed US border patrol and immigration courts, where they are accorded special treatment under a 2008 law.
The resulting humanitarian crisis — and Congress’ refusal to approve additional money to deal with it — have dominated public debate.
Congress has long put off immigration reform that would allow the estimated 11 million undocumented migrants who already live in the United States to come out of the shadows.