WASHINGTON - US President Barack Obama said Thursday he’s taking executive action to grant temporary legal status to some of the 5 million people living illegally in the United States.

Obama said he’s taking the executive action after Congress failed to bring to a vote what he described as a comprehensive fix to the country’s immigration system.

Under Obama’s sweeping plan, there would be a renewed emphasis on the deportation of violent criminals, gang members and suspected terrorists instead of families and a mother working hard to feed her kids. “Tracking down, rounding up and deporting millions of people isn't realistic,” Obama said of his plan to focus on deportation of criminals.

He also promised that those who play by the rules “can come out of the shadows.” “If you’ve been in America for more than five years, if you have children who are American citizens and pay taxes, you can stay without fear of deportation,” he said.

He said this plan doesn’t grant citizenship, and it’s not considered amnesty. The process also doesn’t apply to those who entered the country illegally recently, nor does it apply to those who will enter in the future.

“What I’m describing is accountability – a common-sense, middle-ground approach: If you meet the criteria, you can come out of the shadows and get rights under the law. If you’re a criminal, you’ll be deported. If you plan to enter the US illegally, your chances of getting caught and sent back just went up,” Obama said.

Finally, Obama placed an emphasis on cracking down on illegal immigration at the border. Those caught at the border would be sent back, he said.

Ultimately, he said he’d still like to see Congress pass a comprehensive bill to overhaul the immigration system.

“The actions I’m taking are not only lawful but also are the kinds of actions taken by every Republican president and every Democratic president for the past half century. And to those members of Congress who question my authority to make our immigration system work better, I have one answer: Pass a bill."

Prior to Thursday’s speech, Republicans said Obama’s plan to take executive action was unconstitutional. “The action the president is proposing is not about solutions,” incoming Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell said. “It is not about compassion. It seems to be about what a political party thinks would make for good politics.”

Meanwhile, US President Barack Obama will travel to India in January for celebrations marking the country's Republic Day, the White House announced Friday.

The announcement of the trip came shortly after Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi took to twitter to invite Obama to be the chief guest at the events in New Delhi. The White House said Obama is the first US president to attend Republic Day, which commemorates the adoption of India's constitution.

Obama hosted Modi at the White House in September, nearly a decade after Washington rejected his visa request to visit the US That decision came three years after rampaing crowds killed more than 1,000 Muslims in the state of Gujarat, where Modi was the chief minister.

This will be Obama's second trip to India, with which he has build close strategic relationship, as president. His first visit came in 2010. Obama has so far not visited Pakistan, which is supposed ton be a close US ally in the war on terror.

Moreover, an investigation has been launched after three airlines reported drones flying dangerously close to planes on the approach to New York's JFK Airport, according to US media reports.

Flight crew on a Virgin Atlantic Boeing 747 first spotted an unmanned drone as the jumbo jet made its final approach on a flight from London last Sunday evening.The captain told officials that the drone was flying at an altitude of around 3,000ft in airspace over Nassau County, just east of the airport. Around a minute later, a Delta Air Lines pilot who was behind the controls of a Boeing 737 arriving from San Diego told air traffic controllers that the drone was flying too close to its left wing as it flew over Nassau County, according to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).