DENVER (CBS) – The political fight over President Barack Obama’s immigration plan is playing out in Colorado, too, where Gov. John Hickenlooper called it “very controversial.”

The governor said the issue is “combustible” and suggested citizenship isn’t a priority.

“What I was suggesting was let’s maybe wait two or three years before we get into a discussion about the pathway to citizenship. That seems to be the block. But let’s go ahead with securing the border, getting an ID system,” Hickenlooper said.

On Thursday, Obama announced in a presidential address a plan that would allow approximately 5 million illegal immigrants living in the United States to stay, if they met certain requirements like having children who live in the country legally. About 64,000 in Colorado will be affected.

RELATED: Denver Immigrants, Activists Hail Obama’s Address

Colorado’s attorney general, John Suthers, is reviewing whether he has legal standing in immigration matters, while other states’ attorneys general threaten lawsuits. Republican leaders said Obama’s proposal is illegal and smacks of presidential overreach.

But Democrats like Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet said Republicans’ criticism about going it alone is hypocritical.

“Great, in that case, put a bill on the floor of the House of Representatives and pass it,” Bennet said, referring to the GOP’s reluctance to float immigration-reform legislation in the U.S. House.

Bennet is part of a bipartisan group that passed a reform bill last year in the Senate that the House refused to consider. But he said he Obama’s actions could make it harder to move legislatively on immigration in the next two years.

“I think it could make it more difficult,” he said, “and I think that we live in environment (in Washington) where there are people whose stock in trade is trying to look for excuses to make things more difficult.”

None of Colorado’s Republican congressional representatives were available for comment on Friday.


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