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US Immigration Policies Likely Moving Toward Showdown

FILE - A woman holds up a U.S. flag as she and other anti-deportation protesters chant in front of the White House in Washington.

The fight over contentious U.S. immigration polices likely is leading to a new political flashpoint in Washington.

After Republicans swept to victory in this week's congressional elections, the country's Democratic president, Barack Obama, is pledging to seek accord on some legislation with opposition lawmakers who in January will control both houses of Congress for the first time since 2007.

Obama said at a news conference this week, though, that by the end of the year he will take unilateral action to change the country's immigration policies - a step that would be adamantly opposed by most Republican lawmakers and some Democrats.

Obama's promised action, depending on the scope of it, could permit millions of migrants who entered the country illegally over the years to stay and work in the United States. The U.S. Senate, still controlled by the Democrats, more than a year ago approved comprehensive immigration changes that could let undocumented migrants eventually become citizens.

But the Republican majority in the House of Representatives has balked at taking a vote on the Senate measure, leading Obama to say he would act on his own, to the extent that he can, to change the policies.

"What I'm not going to do is just wait. I think it's fair to say that I've shown a lot of patience and have tried to work on a bipartisan basis as much as possible and I'm going to keep on doing so," said the president. "But in the meantime, let's figure out what we can do lawfully through executive actions to improve the functioning of the existing system.''

The presumptive Senate Republican majority leader, Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, says such go-it-alone action by the president would ignite a new political firestorm.

"I think the president choosing to do a lot of things unilaterally on immigration would be a big mistake ... it's like waving a red flag in front of a bull to say, 'if you guys don't do what I want, I'm going to do it on my own.'" said McConnell.

Obama has invited Republican and Democratic congressional leaders to the White House for a meeting Friday to talk about their legislative priorities.