(CNN) - U.S. House Speaker John Boehner signaled on Thursday any action on immigration is unlikely this year because House Republicans don't trust President Barack Obama on the issue.
"There's widespread doubt about whether this administration can be trusted to enforce our laws and it's going to be difficult to move any immigration legislation until that changes," Boehner told reporters.
The issue of how to deal with some 11 million undocumented workers is the central component of immigration reform that splits the House GOP, which controls the chamber.
Even many of Boehner's allies who support addressing immigration urged him to put off a vote on the issue until after the midterm elections.
Boehner believes certain changes in immigration policy would make good economic policy. He also is trying to help Republicans appeal more broadly to Latino voters, a shortcoming that complicates GOP White House aspirations.
But many Republican members of Congress are worried more about their current races and angering the conservative base, whose turnout is crucial for midterms.
After a lot of attention to immigration reform at the start of 2013, the issue faded over the summer after the Democratic-controlled Senate passed a bill that stalled in the House.
Republicans there said they preferred to address the matter incrementally rather than in one comprehensive measure.
Obama raised the issue in his State of the Union address last week, putting the spotlight on the House to act.
"If we are serious about economic growth, it is time to heed the call of business leaders, labor leaders, faith leaders, and law enforcement - and fix our broken immigration system," Obama said.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said on Thursday the administration had been heartened to see Republicans, including Boehner, "identify immigration reform" as a priority.
But, he said, building trust on these "issues take time and this certainly has taken some time."
GOP distrust of Obama
In his opening comments at his weekly news conference on Thursday, Boehner said he wanted to tackle the divisive issue of immigration reform.
"You all know for the last 15 months I've talked about the need to get immigration done. This is an important issue for our country, it's been kicked around forever, and it needs to be dealt with," he said.
But in a clear attempt to lay the blame for inaction on the White House, he struck out at Obama.
"The president seems to change the healthcare law on a whim whenever he likes, and now he's running around the country telling everyone that he's going to keep acting on his own; keeps talking about his phone and his pen. And he's feeding more distrust about whether he's committed to the law," Boehner said.
Last week, Boehner released a set of immigration principles at a closed-door meeting of all House Republicans, and a significant block of conservatives opposed moving ahead.
At the meeting, many members said they didn't trust that the President really wanted to work with Republicans to pass something before the election. And some were skeptical that any agreement they did reach to ramp up security efforts around the issue wouldn't be fully enforced by the administration.
A Boehner aide pointed to a letter that House Republican leaders sent to Obama last week outlining a small list of narrow bills they pressed him to support.
Boehner said on Thursday that he didn't see a way to move forward with the much heavier lift of immigration reform until Obama "rebuilds the trust" on some smaller issues.
But even if the President were to agree to help move some of these GOP priorities through Congress,that process would take months, putting any vote on immigration close to the 2014 election - a time when members of both parties agree it would be virtually impossible to reach common ground.
Pelosi dismisses mistrust
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi dismissed Boehner's argument that GOP mistrust of Obama prevented any action on immigration.
"That's not a reason not to do an immigration bill, that's an excuse not to do it. And around here you have to always differentiate between what is a reason and what it is an excuse," Pelosi said.
She said there were enough votes in the House to pass comprehensive immigration legislation, and said she believed Boehner was working in "good faith" to try to act.