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Obama pushes for path to citizenship in immigration bill

President Obama said that he remained optimistic that a comprehensive immigration package would pass Congress in the fall. (Carolyn Kaster/AP)

President Obama reiterated Tuesday that immigration reform legislation must include a path to citizenship for people in the country illegally, a warning to House Republicans who have not endorsed such a plan.

“It does not make sense to me, if we’re going to make this once-in-a-generation effort to finally fix the system, to leave the status of 11 million people or so unresolved,” Obama said in an interview with the Spanish-language network Telemundo’s Denver affiliate.

The president said that denying undocumented immigrants the chance to become citizens would leave them “permanently resigned to a lower status. That’s not who we are as Americans.”

Obama’s remarks came during a round of interviews with four Spanish-language stations in Denver, Dallas, Los Angeles and New York/New Jersey as he sought to ramp up the pressure on the House to support a comprehensive reform bill passed by the Senate last month. The interviewers focused almost entirely on immigration during their one-on-one sessions with the president.

House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) said last week that he would not bring the Senate bill to the floor for a vote. Instead, the House is pursuing a series of smaller-scale bills that would increase border security and add more temporary work visas.

“Some of them are responding to constituencies that may have, in some cases, legitimate concerns about immigration but may not know all the facts, they may not know everything that we’d done on the borders to strengthen border security,” Obama told Telemundo’s Dallas affiliate.

Obama said that he remained optimistic that a comprehensive package would pass Congress in the fall, suggesting that members would be able to talk more to their constituents during the summer break next month. He added that if Boehner allowed a vote on the Senate bill, “It would pass tomorrow.”

“We’ve been working on this for years now. Everybody knows what the debates are,” Obama said in the Telemundo Dallas interview. “It’s time for us to stop worrying about politics and worry about doing the right thing for the country.”

David Nakamura covers the White House. He has previously covered sports, education and city government and reported from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Japan.

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Republicans debate tonight. The South Carolina GOP primary and the Nevada Democratic caucuses are next on Feb. 20. Get caught up on the race.
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