| WASHINGTON, Sept 17
WASHINGTON, Sept 17 U.S. President Barack Obama
said on Tuesday he could support the House of Representatives
taking a piece-by-piece approach to changing immigration policy
as long as key elements such as a "pathway to citizenship" for
undocumented immigrants were included.
The White House had hoped a broad bill to reform immigration
rules would be the president's signature achievement this year,
but the effort has stalled in the House after passing with
bipartisan support in the Senate.
In an interview with Noticias Telemundo, Obama said he could
back efforts in the House to advance elements of immigration
reform one at a time - rather than all at once as the Senate did
- as long as all of his priorities were part of the outcome.
"I'm happy to let the House work its will as long as the
bill that ends up on my desk speaks to the central issues that
have to be resolved," he said, citing his priorities of stronger
border security, penalties for employers who take advantage of
undocumented workers, and a pathway to citizenship for
immigrants who are in the country illegally.
"If those elements are contained in a bill, whether they
come through the House a little bit at a time or they come in
one fell swoop ... I'm less concerned about process, I'm more
interested in making sure it gets done," he said.
Advocates are reluctant to support a piece-by-piece approach
out of concern that the elements most popular among Republicans,
such as tougher border security, would be passed while the
pathway to citizenship for some 11 million undocumented
immigrants would not.
A spokesman for Speaker of the House John Boehner, a
Republican, welcomed Obama's comments.
"If immigration reform is going to work, it is essential
that we have the confidence of the American people that it's
done the right way," said Brendan Buck. "That means a
deliberate, step-by-step approach, not another massive
Obamacare-style bill that people don't understand."
Obama urged Boehner to bring the issue to a vote. The White
House believes enough Democrats would support reform efforts to
make up for the Republicans, who have a majority in the chamber,
who would oppose it.
Boehner does not want to bring the issue to the floor of the
House without the support of a majority of his fellow
"We've got a majority of members of Congress, Democrats and
some Republicans, in the House of Representatives, who would
vote for it right now if it hits," Obama said.
Obama said it was "not an option" for his administration to
freeze deportations of undocumented immigrants while waiting for
immigration reform to pass. The president has come under sharp
criticism from activists for presiding over high numbers of
deportations despite his support for reform.
If the House were to pass one bill or several bills
reforming U.S. immigration laws, that could trigger a formal
negotiation between the House and the Senate, which in June
passed a comprehensive measure including a pathway to
citizenship for undocumented U.S. residents.
In that case, a group of House and Senate negotiators would
attempt to come up with one bill that could pass both chambers
and be signed into law by Obama. But many conservative House
Republicans, who oppose a comprehensive immigration bill, are
reluctant to get into such a negotiation with the Senate,
fearing they could be cornered into backing the pathway to