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Boehner says he's 'hell-bent' on passing immigration legislation this year

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April 17, 2014: Suspected illegal immigrants being detained by U.S. Border Patrol agents, in McAllen, Texas. (AP)

House Speaker John Boehner and his Republican leadership team are telling donors and industry groups that they want to pass immigration legislation this year, despite the reluctance of other party members to tackle the divisive issue before the November elections.

Many lawmakers and activists have assumed the issue was off the table in an election year. But Boehner, R-Ohio, said at a recent Las Vegas fundraiser that he was "hell-bent on getting this done this year," two people in the room told The Wall Street Journal.

A Boehner spokesman didn't dispute the account but said no action is possible until President Obama proves himself a trustworthy partner to Republicans.

The news follows House Majority Leader Eric Cantor saying Wednesday after talking to Obama that the GOP-led chamber will not pass the immigration legislation passed this past summer by the Democrat-controlled Senate that includes a path to citizenship for millions of people living illegally in the United States. Critics of the plan say it is tantamount to amnesty.

In addition, Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said during a recent trip to Silicon Valley that action in 2014 was "entirely possible," likely in the form of votes this summer on five to seven immigration bills, Carl Guardino, chief executive of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, who hosted his visit, told the newspaper.

A Goodlatte spokeswoman declined to comment on the exchange.

And Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., also is drafting legislation that would give qualifying undocumented immigrants legal status and the chance to apply for citizenship through existing channels. The bill includes border-security measures and an effort to clear the backlog of applications for permanent legal status, known as green cards.

House leaders have told Mr. Diaz-Balart to have the legislation ready to go for possible debate in June or July, an aide said.

Click for more from The Wall Street Journal