WASHINGTON, June 17 (Reuters) - President Barack Obama's surprise decision to halt U.S. deportations of young undocumented immigrants has all but killed a Republican effort to fashion legislation that could have won political points with Hispanic voters in November's elections.
Republican Senators, including Marco Rubio, had been working behind the scenes for months on a bill that would have allowed some children of undocumented immigrants a chance to stay in the United States legally while pursuing college or military careers.
But Obama's announcement has effectively made the Rubio plan moot, further complicating Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's search for an immigration policy.
"We're re-evaluating our next steps" for the legislation, said Alex Conant, a Rubio spokesman.
"I think the new reality is that it's unlikely to pass this year because the politics on both sides have gotten a lot tougher and the urgency to pass something this summer ... has now been removed" by Obama's action, he said.
The bill by Rubio and senators Jon Kyl and Kay Bailey Hutchison would likely have formed the main thrust of Romney's immigration plan as he tries to close a huge gap in the polls with Obama among Hispanics.
Hispanic voters' support for Romney is dismal, with Obama out-drawing him 67 percent to 21 percent, according to a Pew Research Center poll conducted last month. Hispanics are a fast-growing minority, now 51 million strong in a country of 309 million people, and most U.S. undocumented immigrants are Hispanic.
But even before Obama's order to stop deportations of about 800,000 young undocumented immigrants, the Republican senators were struggling to overcome opposition to their bill from conservatives in Congress. Rubio was unable to commit to introducing legislation this year.
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