(CNSNews.com) - Although president Obama wants a "pathway to citizenship" as part of overall immigration reform, he says he won't "prejudge" what kind of bill might reach his desk -- as long as "folks aren't being deported."
"Well, I think the principle that we don't want two classes of people in America is a principle that a lot of people agree with, not just me and not just Democrats," Obama told Jake Tapper in a taped interview that aired Sunday on CNN's "State of the Union."
Obama said if House Republicans produce a bill saying that "folks aren't being deported, families aren't being separated, we're able to attract top young students to provide the skills or start businesses here and then there's a regular process of citizenship, I'm not sure how wide the divide ends up being. That's why I don't want to prejudge it."
He said he "genuinely" believes that House Republicans want to get serious about immigration reform, and he mentioned Rep. Paul Ryan by name.
"I do know that for a lot of families, the fear of deportation is one of the biggest concerns that they've got. And that's why we took executive actions, given my prosecutorial discretion, to make sure we're not deporting kids who grew up here and are Americans, for all practical purposes. But we need to get that codified.
"And the question is, is there more that we can do in this legislation that gets both Democratic and Republican support, but solves these broader problems, including strengthening borders and making sure that we have a legal immigration system that works better than it currently does."
Obama said he plans to consult with "the people who stand to be affected" by immigration reform legislation.
"The -- not just the immigrant -- immigration rights groups and organizations and advocates, but also ordinary folks. How do they feel? What is it that they're looking for? What do they aspire to? And, you know, this is something that -- where you've got to have a serious conversation around the country."
White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough told CBS's "Face the Nation" on Sunday that President Obama does want a "pathway to citizenship" for people who came to the U.S. illegally.
"We don't want to have a permanent separation of classes or two permanent different classes of Americans in this country," he said. "We're just not going to live with that."
He said the White House will now "stand back" and "see how the House Republicans handle this."
Some Republicans have talked about giving illegal aliens "legal status," but not citizenship.