President Barack Obama’s new promise to seek ways to ease his administration’s rate of deportations aims to mollify angry immigrant advocates but carries risks for a White House that has insisted it has little recourse.

In asking Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson to review enforcement practices, Obama could undo already fragile congressional efforts to overhaul immigration laws. And he still could fall short of satisfying the demands of pro-immigrant groups that have been increasing pressure on him to dramatically reverse the administration’s record of deportations.

The White House announced Thursday that Obama had directed Johnson, who was sworn in three months ago, to see how the department “can conduct enforcement more humanely within the confines of the law.” Then the president summoned 17 labor and immigration leaders to the White House Friday afternoon for what some participants described as a spirited discussion of his deportations policies and the strategy for enacting a comprehensive congressional overhaul of immigration laws.

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