Republicans accuse him doing just that.
In one of two policy memos issued earlier this month, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced that some immigrants from the 37 Visa Waiver Program countries who have stayed in the U.S. longer than allowed could apply to keep living here if they are immediate relatives of a U.S. citizen. People from those countries, mostly European allies, are allowed to visit the U.S. for up to 90 days without a visa.
The agency also announced that some immigrant parents, children and spouses of U.S. service members living in the country illegally would be allowed to stay.
Those moves stand in sharp contrast to the actions of Obama's Homeland Security Department, which has deported nearly 1.9 million people during the president's nearly five years in office, according to Immigration and Customs Enforcement data.
Advocacy groups have been as loud as the California protesters in calling for Obama to act while they maintain pressure on House Republicans with protests and acts of civil disobedience.
"House Republicans are infuriating, and legislation is the permanent solution, and we're going to keep fighting for legislation. But that doesn't let Obama off the hook," Frank Sharry, executive director of America's Voice, a pro-immigrant group, said Tuesday. "He continues to be the president who presides over record deportation."
What angers the advocacy groups is that many of those deported are immigrants who would qualify for legal status or citizenship under the Senate-passed legislation, which Obama supports.
The organizations argue that Obama could expand his Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which dealt with some of the children brought into the country without legal permission, to their parents. He also could delay action against workers who have helped in the prosecution of employers who have broken the law or immigrants who don't represent a threat to national security, the groups say.