The president has been long expected to make an announcement that would protect up to five million unauthorized immigrants from the threat of deportation and provide work permits.
Partisan fighting erupted in the summer over how to address the increased flow of unaccompanied minors from Central America at the U.S. border with Mexico.
Obama has asked for $3.7 billion to address the border crisis. In the summer, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, however, passed a measure that only gave Obama a fraction of what he sought and made it easier to deport the young migrants arriving at the border, a provision opposed by Democrats and immigration advocates. In the end, Congress adjourned without a final bill.
The Democratic-led Senate last year passed a broad overhaul of immigration with support from some Republicans that boosted border security, increased visas for legal immigrants and a provided a path to citizenship for immigrants illegally in the country.
But the Republican-controlled House balked at acting on any broad measure and House Speaker John Boehner informed Obama earlier this year that the House would not act in 2014. That led Obama to declare he would act on his own by issuing executive orders.
One Republican leader on Sunday held open the possibility that his party could move to shut down the government in an attempt to stop the president from taking executive action on immigration policy.
Wires contributed to this report.