House Speaker John Boehner on Thursday bristled at the notion that immigration reform is dead for the coming year.

“Is immigration reform dead? Absolutely not,” he told reporters at his weekly press conference.

The Speaker said that he is “hopeful” the House can make progress on the issue, even though one of his top deputies recently said there is not enough time to hold votes this year.

He said that House Republicans are still having private conversations on how to move forward, but stressed that it will address the issue with smaller individual bills rather than one sweeping bill like the one passed by the Senate.

But he would not say when the House would vote on immigration reform legislation.

In a rare occurrence, Boehner praised President Barack Obama for reiterating that he’s open to passing an immigration overhaul in pieces—as long as every element of reform is included.

“I was encouraged that the president said he wouldn’t stand in the way of a step by step immigration reform,” he said. “The only way to make sure immigration reform works this time is to address these complicated issues one step at a time.”

Immigrant advocates and Democrats have made Boehner (R-Ohio) into a whipping boy on the issue, which has been stalled in the House for months.

Boehner drew fire for saying recently that he would not negotiate on the Senate’s broad immigration overhaul, which includes a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.

Demonstrators have picketed Boehner at his office and his home, demanding that he hold a vote on immigration legislation. The Speaker has also received internal pressure from some Republicans, who view immigration reform as a key step in winning back Latino and Asian voters.

House Democrats were unconvinced by Boehner’s latest comments.

“I have said to these Republicans: if you believe that you can pass a series of piecemeal bills that gets us to a comprehensive solution, let’s do it,” said Rep. Joaquín Castro (Texas). “Begin the process now.

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