LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — Immigrant rights groups across the Southland were set to gather Thursday to watch President Barack Obama’s expected announcement of an executive order that will likely protect millions of people living illegally in the U.S. from deportation.

As many as 5 million people could be covered under the White House action, including parents of U.S. citizens and permanent residents who have been in the country for five years. Obama also is expected to loosen eligibility rules for a 2012 program that already protects some young immigrants from deportation.

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Analysts say an estimated half of the more than 2.5 million undocumented immigrants who live in California will be affected by the order since they’ve been residents for at least a decade.

Obama is scheduled to deliver a nationwide address on the topic at 5 p.m. Thursday, followed by a rally in Las Vegas on Friday morning.

Members of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles will be holding a watch party for both events at the group’s office. Following the president’s address, a group of activists will board a bus bound for Las Vegas so they can attend his event in person.

Activists are also planning to rally at Los Angeles City Hall following the president’s Friday speech.

Another watch party will be held Thursday in Boyle Heights by members of the Mariachi Association and immigrant and community leaders.

While many were expected to cheer on the President’s announcement, CBS2/KCAL9’s Kara Finnstrom reports critics warn the plan may be unconstitutional and could fuel even more illegal immigration.

“If we are going to start using family members as human shields, we are going to have a hard time enforcing law against anyone with family,” said one activist.

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“I know you’re just coming for the American dream and all that, but there’s a way about getting it,” said downtown employee Brittie Anderson.

KNX 1070’s Pete Demetriou reports Southland attorneys are advising people who want to take advantage of the executive order to wait for more details before taking any action.

Immigration lawyer Alex Galvez said he’s most concerned about potential fraud and deadlines ahead of an expected rush by undocumented people eager to take advantage of any change to immigration law.

“What we wanna avoid during this round is the fraud that we’ve always seen in the Latino community, that’s our first priority,” said Galvez. “Also to submit the application in a timely manner…usually when there’s a program like this and the deadline passes, very seldom do immigrants get a second opportunity.”

While the White House has not released details about the executive order, President Obama released a video posted on the White House Facebook page stating he’s taking action because Congress “has allowed the problem to fester for far too long.”

“And so what I’m going to be laying out is the things that I can do with my lawful authority as president to make the system work better, even as I continue to work with Congress to encourage them to get a bipartisan, comprehensive bill that can solve the entire problem,” he said.

House Speaker John Boehner and other Republican leaders in Washington have vowed to attempt to overturn whatever
action the president takes, saying Congressional progress on immigration has stalled due to GOP lawmakers’ belief that Obama will fail to enforce whatever laws are enacted.

“If `Emperor Obama’ ignores the American people and announce an amnesty plan that he himself has said over and over again exceeds his constitutional authority, he will cement his legacy of lawlessness and ruin the chances for congressional action on this issue, and many others,” Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said.

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