WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Rep. Doc Hastings said Thursday that mass deportation of some 11 million undocumented immigrants is not realistic, but he stopped short of endorsing a path of citizenship for those living in the country.

While the Pasco Republican has been a relative hardliner against amnesty, it’s the first time he has publicly clarified his view that deportation is not practical.

“We are a nation of laws, but it isn’t realistic to round everyone up and deport them,” Hastings said in a statement through a spokesman. “If anybody desires to come into this country illegally, they should go to the end of the line,” Hastings said in the statement. “Individuals who broke the law should not be allowed to go ahead of those abiding by the law and going through the proper legalization process.”

In a previous statement issued Wednesday, Hastings appeared to favor a proposal by House Judiciary Committee chairman Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., to address immigration reform on a piecemeal basis rather than in one sweeping proposal.

“As with any law, I believe that Congress has a responsibility to carefully consider every immigration provision that is drafted and the impact it would have,” Hastings said. “Chairman Goodlatte has said for months that one option for achieving this goal would to be consider the major issue of immigration reform in a series of smaller bills, instead of one giant bill, which allows for more scrutiny and input.”

The spokesman said Hastings will not take a position on the entire Senate bill before it is considered, amended and passed on to the House.

At 844 pages in its current form, the Senate bill addresses a wide range of reforms to the country’s immigration system, including a path to citizenship for the undocumented, billions of dollars for increased border security and easier access to work visas for low-skilled foreign laborers.

The full Senate is expected to consider the proposal in June, U.S. Sen. Patty Murray said at a roundtable discussion on the issue in Yakima on Thursday. In an interview, Murray said she opposes a piecemeal approach to immigration reform as proposed in the House of Representatives.

“That has not worked in the past, it will not work this time,” Murray said.

Contact Mike Faulk at 509-577-7675 or mfaulk@yakimaherald.com. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/Mike_Faulk.