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President Obama Optimistic About Pathway to Citizenship

ABC/Donna Svennevik(WASHINGTON) -- If Congress does pass immigration reform, what should come first -- a path to citizenship, or a more secure border?

President Obama says under the proposals on the table, no illegal immigrant will become a citizen overnight.

"They're going to have to earn their way to it," he says.

With critics denouncing it as "amnesty," and Republicans backing reform insisting that border security come first, the president tells Univision the rules of the road to citizenship -- paying penalties and waiting behind others in line -- will be clear.

"We have done almost everything that Republicans asked to be done several years ago as a condition to move ahead with comprehensive immigration reform," President Obama tells Univision. "It's not as if we haven't been attentive to border security and we will continue to be attentive to border security."

When asked about a timeline for immigration reform, the president says he'd like to see the job done soon without waiting too long.

"We want to make sure that we're very clear that this legislation provides a real pathway," he says, while later adding, "We have to put that into place at the outset and make sure that people are clear that this pathway is real and not just a fantasy for the future."

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

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