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Obama: Immigration Bill Leak Didn't Hurt Senate Reform Talks

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WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama sought Wednesday to mitigate any damage from the leak of an immigration bill being drafted by the White House, telling a Spanish-language TV network he didn't jeopardize negotiations with the Senate.

Leaks in Washington happen all the time, Obama said, and shouldn't prevent immigration reform from moving forward. He said negotiations are continuing at full speed.

Members of a bipartisan Senate group taking the lead on immigration reform were caught off-guard over the weekend when details of Obama's own bill were published on USA Today's website. Obama has in the past said he's prepping his own bill, but only as a back-up in case congressional talks fail.

Some Republicans have questioned whether the leak of a competing bill tied makes it more difficult to strike a deal in the Senate. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, one of the Republicans in the group, said Obama's plan injects partisanship into a tough process. And David Axelrod, a senior adviser to Obama's re-election campaign, acknowledged that it likely was a mistake for news of Obama's plan to be made public.

Obama said Wednesday he still prefers that Congress – not the White House – craft a viable law to overhaul the nation's immigration system, and that his standby bill doesn't intrude on the bill that senators are hashing out. He said the ideas included in his bill are consistent with the immigration proposals he has advocated for the past several years, meaning they shouldn't come as a surprise to members of either party.

Obama's comments came in an interview with KWEX, San Antonio's Univision affiliate and one of eight local TV stations to sit down with Obama on Wednesday at the White House. KWEX aired the interview in Spanish with a translation of Obama's remarks.

While Obama and the Senate group differ on some key details, both sides are contemplating legislation that would provide a pathway to citizenship for most of the 11 million undocumented immigrants already in the U.S., tighten border security, crack down on businesses that employ undocumented workers and strengthen the legal immigration system.


Llorca reported from El Paso, Texas.

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