By Jeff Mason
PRETORIA (Reuters) - President Barack Obama on Saturday urged the House of Representatives to follow the lead of the Senate and pass a bill by August to reform the U.S. immigration system.
Speaking during a press conference in South Africa, Obama said there was more than enough time for lawmakers to finish work on the issue before their summer recess.
Immigration reform is one of the president's top domestic issues. The Senate recently passed a bill that would strengthen U.S. border security and provide a way for undocumented immigrants in the United States to obtain citizenship. Obama welcomed the passage of that bill.
Despite strong bipartisan support for the Senate bill, the leader of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, John Boehner, said the measure was dead on arrival in his chamber. Boehner said House Republicans would write their own bill.
Many House Republicans oppose citizenship for immigrants who are in the United States illegally, arguing law-breakers should not be rewarded. Any House Republican bill is expected to focus heavily on border security and on finding immigrants who have outstayed their visas.
But watering down the measure further may not be acceptable to Obama, who repeated on Saturday that he sees the Senate bill as far from perfect.
Even though congressional Republicans have been reluctant to cooperate with Obama, many see immigration reform as a political necessity to improve their standing with Hispanic voters, who overwhelming supported Obama in November's election.
(Reporting by Jeff Mason and Mark Felsenthal; Editing by Ed Stoddard)