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Representative Luis V. Gutiérrez, Democrat of Illinois, who has at times been critical of the administration's approach, said that delay "comes at a tremendous cost in terms of families split up and children placed in foster care." He said he remained confident that the president would put families and security "ahead of short-term political maneuvers."
Inside the White House, the timing of an announcement has become the subject of a fierce debate even as immigration lawyers at the Homeland Security Department rush to develop legally defensible policy options for the president.
Some of Mr. Obama's advisers are urging him to postpone action, fearful of the political ramifications of a broad action to protect millions of immigrants in the country illegally from deportation and to provide many of them with official work papers. Such a move by the president, some senior officials worry, could set off a pitched fight with Republicans and dash hopes for Democratic Senate candidates running in Arkansas, Louisiana, North Carolina and potentially in Iowa.
Control of the Senate hinges on the outcomes of the half-dozen close races in states where Mr. Obama is not popular, notably in Southern states where opposition to an immigration overhaul runs high, and strategists fear that an immigration announcement could hurt Democratic candidates.
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Democratic senators have reached out to top White House officials, including Denis McDonough, the chief of staff, to argue that the recent crisis with unaccompanied minors crossing the border into the United States justifies a delay. Several Democratic officials on Capitol Hill said the angry reaction to that border crisis eroded public support for changing immigration policy, and in some cases, turned the issue into a negative one for them.
But others inside the White House are pushing the president to stick to his promised schedule, regardless of the immediate political consequences. They argue that Republicans will criticize the president and attack Democratic candidates even if Mr. Obama delays parts of his announcement until after the election.
And some say that the Republican reaction — which could include calls for impeachment of the president or a move to shut down the government — could benefit Democrats politically by creating a backlash against Republicans among voters.
Top White House aides say the president is eager to do as much as possible to shift immigration enforcement toward dangerous criminals and repeat border-crossers, and away from families who have lived without legal status in the United States for years. "We very much want to do an executive action," a senior White House adviser said.
Several people who have had direct discussions with administration officials said that in the short term, the White House could take limited measures to make it easier for American citizens to obtain legal status for spouses or minor children who are unauthorized immigrants. Homeland Security officials could also issue tightened enforcement guidelines making it clear that some illegal immigrants with family members here, such as parents of American citizen children, should not be targets for deportation.