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WASHINGTON D.C. (CBS NEWS) – President Obama on Thursday defended the actions he’s taking to shield about 5 million immigrants in the U.S. illegally from deportation as “lawful” and consistent with what his predecessors have done.

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“I continue to believe that the best way to solve this problem is by working together to pass that kind of common sense law,” the president said. “But until that happens, there are actions I have the legal authority to take as President – the same kinds of actions taken by Democratic and Republican presidents before me – that will help make our immigration system more fair and more just.”

“The actions I’m taking are not only lawful, they’re the kinds of actions taken by every single Republican president and every single Democratic president for the past half century,” Mr. Obama added.

The actions he outlined will grant a reprieve from deportation to about 5 million immigrants in the U.S. illegally and allow them to apply for a three-year work permit if they can pass a background check, register with the government, submit biometric data, and establish they are eligible for relief.

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