President Obama on Friday said he's open to taking executive action on immigration.
The president said if Congress can’t pass reform legislation, he would explore all “available options” to implement a “smart system” unilaterally.
“I’m going to look at all available options,” Obama said during a virtual “road trip” chat hosted by Google.
“There are still some differences,” Obama said.
“I want to engage. I don’t want to prejudge and presuppose that we can’t close some of those gaps,” he added. “I’m going to remain modestly optimistic.”
In an interview with CNN on Friday, Obama suggested he would be open to immigration legislation that doesn't include a pathway to citizenship.
House Republican leaders have endorsed giving "legal status" to people in the country illegally but say that's as far as they will go.
Obama reiterated during the Google chat that he wanted to make sure “people are able to become citizens.”
“I’m going to be pushing very hard in the next few months to see if we can get this over the finish line,” he said.
Democratic lawmakers have been urging Obama since last year to act unilaterally to change the country’s deportation policies.
In December, 30 House Democrats sent a letter to Obama urging the administration to expand the deferred action program so that children living in the country illegally could temporarily stay.
Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.), a staunch proponent of immigration reform, said in October Obama had “the responsibility to act” to stop deportations of those who are undocumented living in the U.S.
At a speech late last year in San Francisco, a heckler interrupted Obama and said, “You have a power to stop deportation for all undocumented immigrants in this country.”
"Actually, I don’t," Obama replied. "And that’s why we’re here."
The Google chatter asked Obama on Friday if he could use executive action to change the immigration system because of action he took in 2012.
That year, the administration announced it would halt deportations of young, undocumented people if they enrolled in college or the military and did not break any laws.
— This story was updated at 3:09 p.m.