WASHINGTON - President Obama conceded Tuesday that an immigration overhaul cannot be achieved by his August deadline.
With House Republicans searching for a way forward on the issue, the president said he was hopeful a bill could be finalized this fall - though even that goal may be overly optimistic.
The president, in a series of interviews with Spanish-language television stations, also reiterated his insistence that any legislation include a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million people in the U.S. illegally. Many House GOP lawmakers oppose the citizenship proposal, hardening the differences between the parties on the president's top second-term legislative priority.
"It does not make sense to me, if we're going to make this once-in-a-generation effort to finally fix this system, to leave the status of 11 million people or so unresolved," he said during an interview with Telemundo's Denver affiliate.
The White House sees the president's outreach to Hispanics as a way to keep up enthusiasm for the overhaul among core supporters even as the legislative prospects in Washington grow increasingly uncertain.
Some Republicans view support for immigration reform as central to the party's national viability given the growing political power of Hispanics. But many House GOP lawmakers representing conservative - and largely white - districts see little incentive to back legislation.
The president said the lack of consensus among House Republicans will stretch the immigration debate past August, his original deadline for a long-elusive overhaul of the nation's fractured laws.
"That was originally my hope and my goal," Obama said. "But the House Republicans I think still have to process this issue and discuss it further, and hopefully, I think, still hear from constituents, from businesses to labor, to evangelical Christians who all are supporting immigration reform."
Supporters are working on strategy to get the House to sign off on an overhaul. On Tuesday, most members of the so-called Gang of Eight - the bipartisan group of senators that authored the Senate immigration bill - met in the Capitol with a large group of advocates from business, religious, agriculture and other organizations to urge everyone to work together to move the issue through the House.
The senators distributed a list of 121 House Republicans seen as persuadable in favor of the bill.