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Deport them all? It's not so simple.

Of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States, 4 million live with a U.S.-born child, according to a report released by the Pew Research Center on Wednesday.

The numbers speak to the depth of the country's immigration morass. For decades, millions of immigrants have entered the U.S. illegally or overstayed visas, creating a shadow class of people without the same rights or obligations of legal immigrants and citizens.

Increasingly, those immigrants are staying in the country, raising families and growing enmeshed in the fabric of American life. Sixty-one percent of the undocumented immigrants in the U.S. have been here for 10 years or more, according to Pew.

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Credit: Pew Research Center

The immigration system is broken — in Washington, few would argue that — but Democrats and Republicans in Congress have not been able to reach common ground on which policies would provide a workable solution. Senators approved a large-scale immigration reform bill in 2013, but the Republican-controlled House of Representatives didn't pass comparable legislation, claiming they couldn't trust President Barack Obama to enforce existing law.

In the absence of a legislative answer to the country's immigration woes, Obama is exploring ways he can bypass Congress and take the matter into his own hands. His administration set a self-imposed deadline — the summer's end — for a series of executive actions around immigration, but the rollout date might be delayed until after the November midterm elections, according to some reports.

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The White House is reportedly considering a range of options, including moves that would increase the number of available green cards and provide work permits to millions of undocumented immigrants.

Such steps could trigger a tsunami of criticism from conservatives.

"If the president acts, then I think what you're going to see from Republicans is basically a version of the reaction to Obamacare — can we defund it, can we impeach him," said Tamar Jacoby, the president of ImmigrationWorks USA, a non-profit organization in favor of immigration reform. Republicans will likely be "appalled" by the substance of the president's policy changes and his unilateral action, she said.

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Public sympathy with undocumented immigrants may be eroding, as well. Another report released by Pew on Wednesday found that the number of Americans who favor more border security and enforcement of immigration laws jumped by 8 percent in the last year. Meanwhile, the percentage of people who say undocumented immigrants should be allowed to become citizens dropped slightly.

Credit: Pew Research Center

Even among Democrats, support for stronger border controls grew by 5 percent in the past year.

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All of these factors may delay a decision by the president to take action before the midterm elections. Some Senate Democrats have publicly opposed immigration moves by Obama, which could make their election fights more challenging.

Margaret Peters, an assistant professor in the Department of Political Science at Yale, said there is a political calculus. "If I was an Obama adviser, I would be weighing whether you can get enough of a rally from Hispanic voters to counter any rally that might come from conservative voters," she said.

Hispanics back citizenship for undocumented immigrants in greater numbers than whites or blacks, and might respond positively to immigration action by Obama. But those votes may not be enough to justify the political risk that accompanies such measures.

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Meanwhile, the number of people deported annually has more than doubled in the past decade, with the figures rising during the Obama presidency. The president has long spoken of a commitment to immigration reform, but some activists have dubbed him "deporter-in-chief" for his record on immigration.

Credit: Pew Research Center

Alina Das, an assistant professor of clinical law and supervising attorney at New York University School of Law, said that it doesn't make sense for Obama to continue deporting an estimated average of 1,000 people per day if he is waiting for an opportune political moment.

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"If the president is going to wait until after the midterm elections, in theory, he no longer has the political excuses he's been mentioning lately," she said. "You only have a short time left for him in office to not only announce a policy, but to make sure it works."

Ted Hesson was formerly the immigration editor at Fusion, covering the issue from Washington, D.C. He also writes about drug laws and (occasionally) baseball. On the side: guitars, urban biking, and fiction.