WASHINGTON - Immigrant youth activists called on leading Senate Democrats today to demand that President Barack Obama order a halt to most deportations of people living in the U.S. illegally.
Obama, meanwhile, tried to increase pressure on House Republicans to pass immigration legislation that would let most of those 11.5 million people stay in the country.
The developments highlighted a split among Democrats and immigration advocates: Some want immediate executive action by Obama; others say the focus should stay on House Republicans while there's still a chance, however slim, to pass an immigration bill.
At the White House, Obama addressed law enforcement officers, exhorting them to lobby Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and House Republicans ahead of November midterm elections.
"We've got maybe a window of two, three months to get the ball rolling in the House of Representatives. And your voices are going to be absolutely critical to that effort," the president said.
Obama said he believed Boehner wants to get immigration done, blaming "a handful of House Republicans" for inaction 11 months after the Senate passed a far-reaching bill with billions more dollars for border security and a path to citizenship for most of the people in the country illegally.
Not long after the president spoke, several dozen youth immigrant activists gathered in a park near the Capitol wearing blue shirts with the slogan, "Obama Deports Parents!"
They took their demands to the offices of three Senate Democrats - Harry Reid, Chuck Schumer and Michael Bennet. Reid is the majority leader, and Schumer and Bennet were leaders on the immigration bill. All three instead issued statements demanding the House act.