US President Barack Obama delivers remarks on the new steps he will be taking within his executive authority on immigration at Del Sol High School in Las Vegas, Nev. on Nov. 21, 2014.
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Obama responds to GOP critics on immigration


President Barack Obama defended his executive action on immigration — which spares millions of undocumented immigrants living in the United States — during his first interview since his plans went public on Thursday night. 

RELATED: President Obama announces immigration action

On Friday, Obama signed the most sweeping changes to the U.S. immigration laws in three decades, excusing millions of undocumented immigrants living in the country for three years. In an exclusive interview with ABC News that aired on Sunday morning, the president refused to succumb to the critics who condemn him for taking action on an issue he previously said he didn’t have the control to change. He recognized that he has issued fewer executive orders than most of his predecessors.

“The point is that ultimately, Congress has a responsibility to deal with these issues. And there are some things that I can’t do on my own. What I do have is the legal authority to try to make the system better, given the resource constraints that we have, we have to prioritize,” he said during the interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos.

House Republicans failed to pass a comprehensive immigration reform bill, even after senators approved a measure more than a year ago. Speaker of the House John Boehner is among the GOP members who have criticized the president’s plan, saying he is “acting like” a king and emperor.

11/20/14, 6:20 PM ET

John Boehner: President Obama is 'acting like' a king, emperor

House Speaker John Boehner blasted President Obama’s plans for executive actions on immigration in a video posted shortly before the president’s speech.
House Speaker John Boehner blasted President Obama’s plans for executive actions on immigration in a video posted shortly before the president’s speech.

On Friday, House Republicans filed a long-anticipated lawsuit against the White House that accuses the Obama administration of abusing its power by making changes to the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.

During the interview, Obama didn’t seem fazed by the opposing party’s anger toward his decision, and blamed Boehner for not calling the Senate bill for a vote in the House. The speaker still has several weeks to call the bill in the House, or choose to work with Obama and Democrats to create a new measure. He also acknowledged the government’s incapability to solve the entire problem. 

“The primary response that I have to Speaker Boehner and others is: ‘Pass a bill,’” Obama said. He pointed out a habit in Congress seen over the past four years since the House Republicans gained power where everything becomes hostage to one agreement, such as health care.

The president’s action won’t provide legal status for undocumented immigrants, but rather, a three-year delay for deportation proceedings. Eligible parents of children who are legal permanent residents could also apply for work authorization and, if approved, receive a Social Security number and pay taxes. Groups including parents of so-called DREAMers and agricultural workers won’t be explicitly protected by the executive action. But as many as 30% of parents of DREAMers — undocumented kids who were brought to the U.S. at a young age — could be qualified.

“Everybody knows, including Republicans,” Obama added, “that we’re not going to deport 11 million people.”