Johnson told a conference at the Reagan Presidential Library that the current immigration system had serious problems and reforms were clearly needed. Given the failure of Congress to pass legislation, the Obama administration could resolve some issues under existing legal authorities, he said.
Johnson provided few details, but said the executive actions would be comprehensive and would include measures aimed at strengthening border security.
"We’re in the final stages of developing some executive actions," Johnson said. "We have a broken immigration system. The more I delve into it, the more problems I see."
Guatemala's President Otto Perez said in an interview with Venezuelan broadcaster Telesur that U.S. Vice President Joe Biden had told him and the leaders of Honduras and El Salvador during talks on Friday the actions would be "very important".
Perez said he expected the measures to be announced by late November or early December and would benefit many migrants from the three Central American countries, without elaborating.
The three nations have been at the center of a U.S. political row this year after the apprehension of record numbers of unaccompanied minors from Central America trying to enter the United States to escape poverty and violence in their homelands.
Republicans, who won control of the Senate in the Nov. 4 election, have warned Obama that executive action on immigration would poison hopes for bipartisan cooperation in Congress.
Asked on Thursday if there was a way for Republicans to block Obama on immigration without a government shutdown over funding the government, House Speaker John Boehner said: “We’ll find out.”
Several House Republicans, including some in leadership, said on Friday they were trying to find alternatives that would stop short of directly threatening a government shutdown.
A vocal group of conservatives is pressing to ban funds needed to implement any move that would allow millions of undocumented immigrants to stay and work in the United States.
The New York Times reported on Thursday that Obama plans to announce an overhaul of U.S. immigration policy through executive action that would shield up to 5 million undocumented immigrants from deportation.