WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Senate Democratic leaders on Monday urged President Barack Obama to use his executive powers to make changes to the country's immigration system and outlined major revisions they would like to see included.
For many months, Obama has warned Republicans in Congress that if they continue to block comprehensive immigration legislation, he would act unilaterally where he can.
An announcement could be imminent, as Obama has promised to make the move before year's end. Republican leaders have vowed to undo or weaken any actions Obama takes.
The Senate in June 2013 passed a sweeping, bipartisan immigration bill, but the House of Representatives has refused to consider it.
"Because House Republicans have not acted, we fully support your decision to use your well-established executive authority to improve as much of the immigration system as you can," wrote Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and five other senior Democratic senators in a letter to Obama.
The senators urged Obama to expand a program he created in 2012 deferring deportations of certain undocumented residents who were brought to the United States illegally by their parents or other relatives when they were children.
The Democrats said they hoped Obama would include parents of the 600,000 or so people who have been approved under the two-year-old program, if they have not committed serious crimes. They also said that they wanted Obama to provide help to certain illegal immigrants who are parents of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents and "workers who play a vital role in our economy and heritage."
Other actions Reid, Senators Dick Durbin, Charles Schumer, Patty Murray, Robert Menendez and Michael Bennet called for included revisions of civil immigration enforcement priorities and changing the "Secure Communities" law enforcement program to aim it at illegal immigrants who are convicted of serious offenses.
"Lastly, we hope that you will improve the legal immigration system to keep immigrant families together, protect workers, and allow employers to sponsor more talented immigrants for U.S. citizenship," the senators wrote.
(Reporting By Richard Cowan; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)