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Mr. Trumka urged Mr. Obama to take “bold” action with executive orders to ease immigration law, including a union-backed proposal to halt deportations of most of America’s roughly 11 million illegal aliens.

As with other union priorities, he expressed doubt that Mr. Obama would do enough.

“He is going to do something. I hope it’s bold enough to be worthwhile,” Mr. Trumka said.

Mr. Obama is expected to soon announce executive actions to limit deportations. He promised to act before the end of the summer after the effort for comprehensive immigration reform stalled in Congress.

Mr. Trumka called on the president to grant legal status to all undocumented residents who would be eligible for a 13-year path to citizenship included in a Senate immigration reform bill that passed this year, which would cover most of America’s illegal alien population.

“Everybody who could become a citizen under the Senate bill should be exempted [from deportation] right now,” he said.

The union boss warned that if Mr. Obama’s executive action only nibbles at the edges of U.S. immigration laws, it would still energize the president’s conservative foes while undermining support from his liberal and Hispanic allies.

Conservatives will go “bonkers” regardless of the extent of the executive orders, he said, but bold action will “energize” the left and help elect more Democrats in the midterm elections.