Is Obama Open to Immigration Reform Without Citizenship?

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At a time when most policy measures go to die in the U.S. House of Representatives, President Barack Obama signaled he may be open to offering legal status rather than strictly a path to citizenship as part of immigration reform, which could help bridge the divide. Obama told CNN he was encouraged by the immigration “principles” the House GOP leadership released on Thursday, one of which includes granting legal status rather than citizenship to undocumented people in the United States.

The Obama interview aired on CNN on Friday. Speaking to the network’s Jake Tapper, Obama said he liked the idea of reform in which “folks aren’t being deported, families aren’t being separated … and then there’s a regular process of citizenship.” Citing the efforts of both House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), Obama suggested a willingness to put a deal on the table without a direct path to citizenship, a place where the two parties have agreed to disagree.

One key sticking point between Democrats and Republicans has been the distinction of legal status, which Obama said could create “two categories of people in this country,” and full citizenship. However, the president’s openness to compromise on that point offered hope to many who have been discouraged by the pace and overall shape of immigration reform. After a bipartisan Senate bill on immigration issues reached the House of Representatives in mid-2013, House GOP leadership has declined to bring it up for a vote.

Comments by Ryan on the Sunday talk show circuit suggested supporters of immigration reform should table any optimism for the time being.

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