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America must ’seize the moment’ on immigration, Obama says

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama says America must ‘‘seize the moment’’ to seek an overhaul of the immigration system and he expects that work to start soon after his inauguration for a second term.

In his first news conference after winning re-election, Obama says conversations are already taking place among his staff and members of Congress.

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Obama said it was his ‘‘expectation’’ that a comprehensive immigration reform bill would be introduced ‘‘very soon after my inauguration.’’

His support among Hispanics was one of his keys to victory over Republican rival Mitt Romney, who staked out conservative positions on immigration changes during the GOP primaries. Obama failed to make progress on comprehensive immigration changes during his first term but said he planned to after his inauguration.

The White House is already engaged in conversations with Capitol Hill.

Obama said the legislation should make permanent the administrative changes he made earlier this year that allow some young illegal immigrants to remain in the country legally. He said that the overall bill should include a ‘‘pathway to legal status’’ for the millions of immigrants who are in the US illegally but and haven’t committed crimes unrelated to immigration.

Obama urged lawmakers to codify his decision earlier this year to stop deporting young illegal immigrants brought here by their parents.

He said the country needs to build on momentum from the last week’s election.

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