Issa Embraces Path to Citizenship for Illegal Immigrants

Issa is the latest GOP leader to back immigration reform.

California Rep. Darrell Issa, the grandson of Lebanese immigrants and the richest member of Congress, says Republicans should think of illegal immigrants as people.
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California Republican Rep. Darrell Issa is the latest GOP lawmaker to refine his stance on immigration.

The House Oversight Committee chairman told reporters Wednesday he can support a pathway to citizenship for some of the 11 million illegal immigrants in the U.S. and that he actually prefers it to a plan that would create a second-class of citizens through alternative programs.

"I support the framework that the bipartisan group of senators are working on," Issa said. "We have to remember the 11 million people who are here are people."

He hinted that in the Republican Party, he is not alone.

"It's what Abraham Lincoln would have said, it is what the Republican Party stands for," Issa said. "It is the reason we have to get it right on who stays and who goes."

[RELATED: No. 2 House Republican Pivots on Immigration]

Republicans have mounted an aggressive campaign on Capitol Hill to showcase their new, more moderate tone on immigration reform and a bipartisan group of lawmakers in the House is working behind closed doors to outline their own immigration plan, although it is unclear whether it will include a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants.

In the past, Issa has taken a harsher tone on immigration issues, voting for a plan in 2006 to build a wall along the Mexican border and against the DREAM Act in 2010.

But Issa's in a unique position as a Republican in California, a state with one of the largest immigrant populations. Issa says he understands the impact immigrants make on California's economy, including the state's thriving agricultural sector.

Not everyone in the Republican caucus, however, is embracing a path to citizenship. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte expressed reluctance to the idea during the House's first immigration hearing of the 113th Congress Tuesday.

[ENJOY: Political Cartoons About Illegal Immigration]

And Alabama Republican Rep. Spencer Bachus dismissed the plan as "toxic," and as undermining of the nation's laws during the hearing.

But there is no denying that there is sea change happening among Republicans whose leadership members one by one are adapting their postilions.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor announced Tuesday he could get behind a plan to help so-called DREAMers, individuals who came to the Untied States illegally as children.

"One of the great founding principles of our country was that children would not be punished for the mistakes of their parents," Cantor said during a presentation at the American Enterprise Institute. "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."

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