First of all, we need to be clear on what can and cannot happen in the American system of government. President Obama cannot, on his own, give green cards to anyone. If there are going to be changes, it is Congress that will have to pass the laws that make those changes happen. President Obama can outline what he thinks the laws should say, but he has no power on his own to force Congress to pass such laws. This is particularly true because Republicans control the House of Representatives and have enough votes in the Senate to make it hard for Democrats to pass any controversial legislation.
That said, it is clear that President Obama would like to see a law that will eventually allow illegal immigrants to become American citizens. He did set some criteria that he would like to see such immigrants meet. For example, they would need to learn English and they would need to undergo criminal background checks. However, he would provide a path to citizenship for those who meet the criteria.
President Obama’s proposal is more lenient than the one proposed by a bipartisan group of Senators recently. That proposal would also provide a path to citizenship, but it would only allow current illegal immigrants to become citizens after the flow of new illegals is cut off. The president’s proposal does not have such limitations.
So, while President Obama has no legal authority to do this, he would like to see laws passed that would allow illegal immigrants to become citizens.