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Oct 30, 4:27 PM EDT

GOP senators urge Obama to hold off on immigration


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WASHINGTON (AP) -- The three Republican senators responsible for comprehensive immigration legislation, which remains stalled in Congress, on Thursday urged President Barack Obama to hold off on any steps to shield millions of people from deportation.

"Acting by executive order on an issue of this magnitude would be the most divisive action you could take - completely undermining any good-faith effort to meaningfully address this important issue, which would be a disservice to the needs of the American people," Sens. John McCain of Arizona, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Marco Rubio of Florida wrote to Obama.

Obama has said he would act after next week's midterm elections as Congress has failed to pass legislation to overhaul the nation's immigration system. The president said he would take steps to increase border security, upgrade the processing of border crossers and encourage legal immigration.

He also said he would offer immigrants who have been illegally in the United States for some time a way to become legal residents, pay taxes, pay a fine and learn English.

The president had promised to act this past summer, but delayed any decisions until after the elections, drawing the wrath of immigration advocacy groups and complaints from Republicans of "raw politics."

The three senators said in the letter that no presidential action should be taken until "we have properly secured our southern border and provided for effective enforcement of immigration laws." They complained that any executive action would undermine congressional efforts to reform the system.

McCain, Graham and Rubio were members of the so-called Gang of Eight, a bipartisan group that put together a broad overhaul of immigration that boosted border security, increased visas for legal immigrants and a provided a path to citizenship for the 11 million immigrants living in the country illegally.

The Senate passed the measure on a bipartisan vote in June 2013, but the Republican-led House has failed to act on any broad measure despite promises from GOP leaders that they would address the issue. Time is running out on the Senate-passed bill, with no indication that the House would vote during a postelection, lame-duck session.

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