(J. Scott Applewhite/AP) (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) said Thursday that immigration reform is "absolutely not" a dead issue, but he offered no timetable for when he might scheduled a vote on legislation.

"I'm hopeful we can make progress on this very important issue," Boehner said at his weekly news conference on Capitol Hill.

House GOP leaders have said that there is not enough time to deal with immigration before the end of the year, alarming advocates who fear that Republicans are willing to let the momentum die after the Senate approved a comprehensive overhaul of border control laws in June. Proponents say passing an immigration bill next year could be tricky with the midterm elections approaching.

But Boehner insisted that his colleagues are still pursuing a series of smaller-scale immigration bills and he said that he was encouraged by President Obama's recent statements that he would support a piecemeal approach to legislation.

Perhaps alluding to the Affordable Care Act, Boehner said that "the American people are skeptical of big, comprehensive bills, and frankly, they should be. The only way to make sure immigration reform works this time is to address these complicated issues one step at a time. I think doing so will give the American people confidence that we're dealing with these issues in a thoughtful way and a deliberative way."

At a forum with business executives this week, Obama said of the House approach to immigration: "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, as long as it's actually delivering on those core values that we talk about."

Yet the sticking point remains a path to citizenship for the nation's 12 million undocumented immigrants. While the Senate bill would allow most of those immigrants to pursue citizenship over a 13-year period, most House Republicans have not supported such a measure. House committees have deliberated over bills focused on increased border control and tougher laws governing undocumented immigrants.

Still, Boehner reiterated that he believes "Congress needs to deal with this issue. Our committees are continuing to do their work. There are a lot of private conversations that are underway to try to figure out, how do we best move on a common-sense, step-by-step basis to address this very important issue."