City leaders representing more than two dozen municipalities vowed Monday to help realize President Barack Obama's immigration policy that would allow millions of illegal immigrants to seek temporary status and obtain legal rights. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said the participating city officials will attempt to reach all eligible applicants through community outreach and education efforts to ensure as many immigrants as possible apply for protection under the program.

The effort, called Cities United For Immigration Action, will also seek partnerships with faith, business and labor leaders to reach out to more eligible immigrants. They planned "Know Your Rights" rallies to help spread awareness about other immigrants who received legal protections under Obama's previous 2012 immigration overhaul aimed at young adults brought to the United States illegally as children. 

“The president’s plan to act on immigration reform is crucial to creating a more just country, and the federal government is depending on cities to implement the plan. It is critical that we get it right,” de Blasio said in a statement after the city leaders gathered in New York Monday for a one-day immigration summit. “Mayors are in the trenches and see firsthand the need for comprehensive immigration reform. We will take this opportunity to lay the ground work for a deeper national movement from the grassroots up.”

The participating cities with Democratic leaders include: Atlanta; Boston; Buffalo, New York; Charlotte, North Carolina; Dayton, Ohio; Hartford, Connecticut; Houston; Jersey City, New Jersey; Los Angeles; Louisville, Kentucky; Madison, Wisconsin; New Haven, Connecticut; Newark, New Jersey; Philadelphia; Pittsburgh; Providence, Rhode Island; Salt Lake City; San Francisco; Santa Fe, New Mexico; Schenectady, New York; Seattle; Syracuse, New York; Tacoma, Washington, and Washington, D.C.

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, the son of immigrant parents, said most immigrants live in large cities, meaning city officials must do the heavy lifting to ensure Obama's policy has a high participation rate. "The president’s bold action on immigration has set the course, and now we must follow through,” he said.

Obama announced last month he would sidestep Congress and use his executive authority to strengthen border security, extend legal protections to high-skilled working immigrants and provide temporary deportation relief to some unauthorized immigrants who meet certain criteria

Republicans have denounced Obama for offering "amnesty" to millions of immigrants without approval from Congress. Texas Attorney General and Gov.-elect Greg Abbott joined 16 other states in a lawsuit filed last week against the executive action, saying Obama violated his constitutional duty to uphold laws passed by Congress.

“The president is abdicating his responsibility to faithfully enforce laws that were duly enacted by Congress and attempting to rewrite immigration laws, which he has no authority to do -- something the president himself has previously admitted,” Abbott said.