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    White House says immigration reform now “difficult”

    By Noreen Bowden | June 23, 2009

    The White House acknowledged yesterday that immigration reform looks unlikely this year. Press secretary Robert Gibbs said, “I can see the president’s desire for it to happen, but understanding at the current – currently where we sit, the math makes that more difficult than – than the discussion”. Mr Gibbs said that Mr Obama hopes that “later this year that we can have the beginning of formal debate on that”.

    He added that Mr Obama “hopes that immigration reform will happen soon, but doesn’t have a crystal ball as to when that might happen”.

    Mr Gibbs’ comments follow Mr Obama’s comments on Thursday that he is “committed to passing comprehensive immigration reform as president of the United States”. He made the remarks at a prayer breakfast attended by Hispanic leaders. He also said:

    “The American people believe in immigration. But they also believe that we can’t tolerate a situation where people come to the United States in violation of the law – nor can we tolerate employers who exploit undocumented workers in order to drive down wages. And that’s why we’re taking steps to strengthen border security, and we must build on those efforts.

    “We must also clarify the status of millions who are here illegally, many who have put down roots. For those who wish to become citizens, we should require them to pay a penalty and pay taxes, learn English, go to the back of the line, behind those who played by the rules. That is the fair, practical and promising way forward. And that’s what I’m committed to passing as president of the United States.”

    Mr Obama will host a bipartisan meeting on the topic on Thursday – a meeting which has been twice postponed.  It has been widely reported that the president is prioritising health care reform and the economic crisis over immigration reform.

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