US President Barack Obama has announced the most sweeping immigration reform in a generation, easing the threat of deportation for about 4.7 million undocumented immigrants and setting up a clash with outraged Republicans.

In a speech on Thursday, Obama rejected Republican accusations that his actions are tantamount to amnesty for illegal immigrants.

The real amnesty, he said, was "leaving the broken system the way it is".

"Mass amnesty would be unfair. Mass deportation would be both impossible and contrary to our character. What I'm describing is accountability, a common-sense, middle-ground approach," he said.

Al Jazeera's Andy Gallacher, reporting from Miami, said that the biggest sentiment among people who watched the televised address was that they were 'one step closer'. 

"What they're really calling for is for the parties to come together and have bipartisan agreement and reform the immigration system," said our correspondent.

More soon...

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies