House Majority Leader Eric Cantor attempted to project a softer Republican tone on immigration during a speech at the American Enterprise Institute on Tuesday, but indicated there is a ways to go until Republicans and Democrats agree on an overhaul of the nation's immigration laws.
Cantor, the second-ranking House Republican, endorsed a path to citizenship for DREAMers, the undocumented young people brought to the United States as children. House Republicans helped sink the DREAM Act, which would have granted a path to citizenship to DREAMers seeking a college education or military service, in 2010.
"A good place to start is with the kids," Cantor said. "One of the great founding principles of our country was that children would not be punished for the mistakes of their parents. It is time to provide an opportunity for legal residence and citizenship for those who were brought to this country as children and who know no other home."
He also voiced support for a guest-worker program, increased border security, and an employment verification system as a part of a broader immigration reform effort. Those ideas are all components of the immigration reform framework outlined by the Senate "Gang of Eight."
But Cantor refused to take a position on the bipartisan group's plan, saying he's not familiar with the specifics of that framework.
"I've not looked at the details of what the Senate put out," he said.
Cantor did praise Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), a member of the Senate group, and said he believes Congress can work toward a solution to the immigration problem "in quick fashion."
He also called on President Obama to lead on immigration reform.
"There are some who would rather avoid fixing the problem in order to save this as a political issue," Cantor said. "I reject this notion and call on the president to help lead us towards a bipartisan solution rather than encourage the common political divisions of the past."
Obama voiced his support last week in Las Vegas for the Senate framework, and the White House released a set of principles that endorsed the idea of a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the country and called for protections for same-sex couples.