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Obama: Immigration reform will be 'issue that haunts' GOP

Immaculee Ilibagiza, from Rwanda, (L) and other immigrants take the oath of American citizenship at a naturalization ceremony in New York City. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

President Obama said that immigration reform would be an “issue that haunts” Republicans if they failed to act and pressed House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, to use his “political capital” to find a solution.

“There's always gonna be a limit to what I can do in the absence of action by Congress,” Obama said in an interview aired Thursday on "CBS This Morning." “I think it is very important for Congress to recognize that this is going to be an issue that haunts them until it gets solved.”

A comprehensive bill passed the Senate last year, but House Republicans say they will address the issue with a piecemeal approach focusing first on border security. House GOP leaders unveiled their own principles for reform earlier this year, but quickly shelved plans to act. Boehner said it was unlikely immigration reform would pass before November's midterms and has ignored Democratic calls to bring the Senate bill to a vote.

Obama has pressed Republicans on immigration, urging them in a statement Wednesday to “listen to the will of the American people” and pass comprehensive reform.

Republicans say Obama must do more to enforce laws already on the books and accuse him of using the issue for political gain ahead of November.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., spoke to Obama about immigration reform on Wednesday, blasting the president after in a statement for what he called “partisan messaging.”

“We have a window in this legislative session. I think that the speaker, John Boehner, is sincere about wanting to get it done,” Obama said in the interview. “But so far, at least, he has not been willing to spend the political capital to move his caucus to allow a vote in the House.”

Obama is also facing pressure from immigrant rights groups to use executive action to halt all deportations but has resisted those calls, saying that meaningful reform must come from Capitol Hill.

Obama suggested that a deal could be reached once Republican lawmakers made it through the primary season, where many are facing challenges from the right.

“I'm hoping that, you know, once we get through some of the Republican primary season, maybe, you know, as we are still far enough away from November, that people see a chance to do the right thing,” Obama said.