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Obama says immigration reform could be bit by bit

Update: November, 20/2013 - 11:49

WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama has said he would agree to Republicans passing immigration reform in small pieces – if it would ease the way into law for one of his top second term goals.

Obama previously called on Republicans in the House of Representatives to move a comprehensive bill to give 11 million illegal immigrants a path to citizenship and reform the entire immigration system, but the legislation's prospects have dimmed.

"They're suspicious of comprehensive bills," Obama said on Tuesday at a Wall Street Journal CEO summit.

"But you know what? If they want to chop that thing up into five pieces, as long as all five pieces get done, I don't care what it looks like."

Obama said however that any measures passed must include better enforcement of US borders, a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants who pay a fine, and should also tackle the limbo status of the children brought to the United States by parents who are illegal immigrants.

House speaker John Boehner has already signaled that the comprehensive immigration bill which has already passed the Senate this year will not move out of his chamber before 2014.

"I'm trying to find some way to get this thing done," but that the legislation is "not going to be an easy path forward," he said last week.

Boehner and his Republican Party are under heavy pressure ahead of 2016 presidential elections to improve their standing among Hispanic voters for whom immigration is a cherished political goal.

Boehner and other Republicans prefer a "step-by-step" approach to reform, which would allow for votes on issues such as border security or laborer visas.

But with the 2014 mid-term elections, prospects for action appear to be slipping away for next year as well.

Many Republicans oppose comprehensive reform and see a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants as tantamount to "amnesty." AFP

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