Adjusting the department's priorities for deportation is one such approach. Depending on how it's done, it could have a significant impact by providing new guidance to ICE agents on the front lines. Activists want more wholesale changes; some say ICE agents don't always follow the priorities set by the administration.
"I think that is a step in the right direction, but not enough," said Gustavo Torres, executive director of CASA de Maryland, an immigrant service organization. "We believe the president has the authority to stop deportations" of larger groups of people.
At the same time, Obama would likely face GOP wrath for taking even the smallest steps toward providing relief to people in this country illegally. Republicans already accuse Obama's administration of subverting the law through previous moves to give "prosecutorial discretion" to immigration agents.
"We're already at a point where deportations are in a state of collapse and to go further would be exactly the wrong thing to do," said Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala.
The Obama administration's deportation priorities have been controversial, with the administration contending they're meant to keep the focus on criminals. Immigration activists argue that in reality, many people with a minor criminal record or no record are swept up.
Advocates say part of the problem is that, although criminals are prioritized, people with no criminal record or a minor record can be removed if they've gotten caught up in the immigration system.
Follow Erica Werner on Twitter: https://twitter.com/ericawerner
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