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Senator Paul says he's open to voting for immigration bill

By Caren Bohan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Senator Rand Paul, a conservative Republican whose vote is being courted by supporters of a broad U.S. immigration bill, said on Sunday he is open to voting for the measure but wants changes, including tougher border security requirements.

Paul, who has hinted at an interest in running for president in 2016, in March backed the concept of a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants that is at the heart of a comprehensive immigration bill under consideration in the U.S. Senate.

But Paul, of Kentucky, has also criticized some elements of the bill, saying it should provide a mechanism for assuring that the U.S. border with Mexico is secure. Paul also wants to see an expansion of visa programs that allow companies to hire workers from abroad.

A Senate vote on the immigration bill is expected by the end of June. The bill is expected to get strong support among Democrats in the Senate but will also need several Republican votes to meet the 60-vote minimum required for passage.

Many supporters of immigration reform believe the measure will face its toughest challenge in the Republican-led House of Representatives, where many conservatives have expressed skepticism about the path to citizenship for the undocumented.

"I am the conduit between conservatives in the House who don't want a lot of these things and more moderate people in the Senate who do want these things. I want to make the bill work, but see, the thing is, what they have in the Senate has zero chance of passing in the House," Paul told the "Fox News Sunday" program.

"I'm really trying to make immigration work, but they are going to have to come to me and they're going to have to work to make the bill stronger if they want me to vote for it," Paul added.

(Additional reporting by Paul Simao; Editing by Vicki Allen)

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