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Obama seeks to build momentum for immigration overhaul

U.S. President Barack Obama waves as he walks on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington before his departure to the Walter Reed Nat
U.S. President Barack Obama waves as he walks on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington before his departure to the Walter Reed Nat

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama turned to business leaders on Tuesday to try to build momentum for an overhaul of the U.S. immigration system and pressured the U.S. Congress to approve legislation by the end of the year.

Obama brought a number of business executives to the White House to stress his belief that untangling the immigration system would add $1.4 trillion in growth to the U.S. economy over 20 years and reduce deficit spending in the federal budget by $850 billion.

Immigration legislation that would create a provisional status for workers as part of a 13-year path to U.S. citizenship cleared the Democratic-controlled Senate in June but is stalled in the Republican-led House of Representatives.

Obama told reporters as he met the business leaders that he would press the issue in coming weeks.

"There's no reason why we can't get this done before the end of the year," he said.

The president's domestic agenda has been caught up in controversies in recent weeks, including a budget battles with Republicans that led to a 16-day government shutdown. He is currently struggling to smooth out the troubled rollout of his signature healthcare law.

Intent on showing that other parts of his agenda can be worked on at the same time, Obama said he realizes there has been resistance to the immigration plan from House Republicans and that "the politics are challenging" for House Speaker John Boehner.

He said he believed the immigration overhaul would pass if Boehner allowed it to come to a vote in the House.

"We want to make it as easy for him as possible. This is not an issue where we're looking for a political win. This is one where we're looking for a substantive win for the U.S. economy," Obama said.

Among the business leaders who met Obama were Roger Altman, chairman of Evercore Partners; Don Thompson, chief executive of McDonald's; Arne Sorenson, the Marriott chief executive; and Marillyn Hewson, chief executive of Lockheed Martin.

(Reporting By Steve Holland; Editing by Mohammad Zargham)

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