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Obama, in Las Vegas, launches sales mission for immigration measures

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LAS VEGAS — Mounting an offensive behind his immigration directives, President Barack Obama on Friday insisted House Republicans must take up a comprehensive immigration overhaul but said the system is so unfair that it needs the type of fixes that he initiated on his own.

"Our immigration system has been broken for a very long time and everybody knows it," he said. "We can't afford it anymore."

Speaking at the Las Vegas high school where he launched his drive for Congress to send him an immigration bill, Obama outlined steps he has taken to help millions of people living in the country illegally. The measures are designed to make nearly 5 million of those immigrants eligible for protection from deportation and for work permits.

But Obama cautioned that his actions are limited and that only broader legislation would permanently change immigration laws and help the more than 11 million immigrants illegally in the United States.

"The actions I've taken are only a temporary first step," he said.

As if to underscore that point, a heckler interrupted Obama, chiding him for not doing enough with his executive actions to help more immigrants in the country.

PHOTO: FILE - Astrid Silva poses as she waits for her number to be called to renew her passport at the Mexican Consulate in Las Vegas in this Friday, June 22, 2012 file photo. The young woman who has led immigration reform efforts buried her face in her father's shoulder, standing side-by-side against a wall, as the president mentioned the time when Silva couldn't return to Mexico to be at her grandmother's funeral. The 26-year-old's tears didn't abate as she went from interview to interview in front of cameras and microphones in a crowded Las Vegas office to tell her story once more, seconds after Obama finished telling the country about his plan to offer protections to nearly 5 million immigrants, including deferring deportations for some.  (AP Photo/Las Vegas Review-Journal, David Becker, File)
FILE - Astrid Silva poses as she waits for her number to be called to renew her passport at the Mexican Consulate in Las Vegas in this Friday, June 22, 2012 file photo. The young woman who has led immigration reform efforts buried her face in her father's shoulder, standing side-by-side against a wall, as the president mentioned the time when Silva couldn't return to Mexico to be at her grandmother's funeral. The 26-year-old's tears didn't abate as she went from interview to interview in front of cameras and microphones in a crowded Las Vegas office to tell her story once more, seconds after Obama finished telling the country about his plan to offer protections to nearly 5 million immigrants, including deferring deportations for some. (AP Photo/Las Vegas Review-Journal, David Becker, File)

"Not everyone will qualify," Obama conceded. "That's the truth. Listen, I heard you and what I'm saying is we're still going to have to pass a bill."

With Republicans accusing him of overstepping his authority, Obama and his allies are seeking to sell the executive actions on immigration as good politics and good policy. But he also sought to use his move to apply pressure on Republicans, who seemed to be casting about for a way to respond without overplaying their hand.

The actions, which Obama laid out in a prime-time television address Thursday, would mainly cover parents of U.S. citizens and of legal residents as long as the parents have been in the U.S. for five years or more. But Obama's actions also would change enforcement priorities by emphasizing the deportation of new illegal arrivals and criminals.

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said Obama, in sidestepping Congress, had damaged his ability to get things done.

"In the days ahead the people's house will rise to this challenge" Boehner said Friday at the Capitol. "We will not stand idle as the president undermines the rule of law in our country and places lives at risk. ... He's damaging the presidency itself."

But Obama countered that it has been Republicans who have stood in the way, noting that 512 days have passed since the Senate passed a comprehensive bill.

"The fact that a year and a half has gone by means that time has been wasted and during that time families have been separated and during that time businesses have been harmed," he said, promising to keep working with lawmakers to achieve a comprehensive bill.

"So Las Vegas, I've come back to Del Sol to tell you I'm not giving up. I will never give up."

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Video:
PHOTO: President Barack Obama invited a showdown with newly empowered Republicans in Congress, ordering far-reaching changes to the U.S. immigration system. Immigration reform supporters rallied outside the White House as the President spoke. (Nov. 21)
President Barack Obama invited a showdown with newly empowered Republicans in Congress, ordering far-reaching changes to the U.S. immigration system. Immigration reform supporters rallied outside the White House as the President spoke. (Nov. 21) PHOTO: President Barack Obama is telling the American people that the time to change the nation's immigration system is now, and he's taking action to make that happen. (Nov. 20)
President Barack Obama is telling the American people that the time to change the nation's immigration system is now, and he's taking action to make that happen. (Nov. 20) PHOTO: President Barack Obama spurned furious Republicans by unveiling expansive executive actions on immigration Thursday night to spare nearly 5 million people in the U.S. illegally from deportation and refocus enforcement efforts. (Nov. 20)
President Barack Obama spurned furious Republicans by unveiling expansive executive actions on immigration Thursday night to spare nearly 5 million people in the U.S. illegally from deportation and refocus enforcement efforts. (Nov. 20)
Photo Gallery:
PHOTO: President Barack Obama signs two presidential memoranda associated with his actions on immigration in his office on Air Force One as he arrives at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas, Friday, Nov. 21, 2014, before traveling to Del Sol High School to speaks about the steps he will be taking on immigration. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
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