Democrats have called on Congress to put many of the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the country on a path to citizenship, but some Republicans have decried the idea as "amnesty."
In addition to addressing the need to provide relief to DREAMers, Cantor also spoke at length about the need for more science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) workers. He called on Congress to pass legislation that would allow foreign students educated in the United States in STEM fields to stay in the country.
"Each year our colleges and universities graduate approximately 40,000 foreign nationals with Masters and PhD degrees, many of whom are then forced to leave the country because there are not enough visa slots in our immigration system to permit them to stay," he said. "So rather than being able to invent things here in America, grow businesses or start one of their own, they do all of these things somewhere else."
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have voiced support for increasing the number of visas for STEM workers and for allowing students educated in the United States to stay. But they don't agree on how to go about putting the idea into practice.
Many Republican lawmakers, including Rep. Raúl Labrador (R-Idaho), have called for a series of immigration bills aimed at addressing specific issues.
"While we are a nation that allows anyone to start anew, we are also a nation of laws, and that's what makes tackling the issue of immigration reform so difficult," Cantor said. "In looking to solve this problem soon, we've got to balance respect for the rule of law and respect for those waiting to enter this country legally, with care for the people and families, most of whom just want to make a better life, and contribute to America."
Cantor avoided adopting any of the harsh rhetoric that some voters have criticized Republicans for using, terms like "illegal aliens" and "amnesty."
"It's no secret that there are more than 11 million people here illegally, many of whom have become part of the fabric of our country," he said. "They, like us, have families and dreams."