Cantor on immigration: softened rhetoric, but no path to citizenship

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor speaks at the American Enterprise Institute, on February 5, 2013 in Washington, DC.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor speaks at the American Enterprise Institute, on February 5, 2013 in Washington, DC.
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Eric Cantor, the second-ranking House Republican, attempted to project a softer Republican position on immigration reform by endorsing a path for the undocumented young people brought to the U.S. as children to legal residency under the Dream Act and offering multiple anecdotes of immigrant stories.

Despite Cantor’s softened rhetoric on immigration, House Republicans are not offering a plan that includes a path towards citizenship. In 2010, House Republicans stood in the way of the Dream Act, stomping on the dreams of all those who sought a college education or military service in the United States.

The Virginia lawmaker stated Tuesday, “A good place to start is with the kids. 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.”

Cantor indicated there are some individuals who have, for political gain, stood in the way of an overhaul of the nation’s immigration laws. “There are some who would rather avoid fixing the problem in order to save this as a political issue. 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.”

While many political analysts have been buried in the House Republicans’ goal of enacting major spending cuts and reducing the nation’s deficit, Cantor prefaced his speech by noting that he wanted to “focus on what lies beyond the fiscal debate,” adding that over the “next two years, the House Majority will pursue an agenda based on a shared vision of creating the conditions for health, happiness and prosperity for more Americans and their families.”

The tone and subject of Cantor’s speech are a departure from his typical political speeches centered around small businesses and economic growth. Cantor’s policy proposals outlined on Tuesday are meant to showcase a new Republican party: one that understands the needs and challenges of families, not just businesses.

On msnbc’s Morning Joe Tuesday morning, Cantor introduced his theme of easing hardships for Americans, saying he will try “to make life work again for so many millions of Americans.” In subsequent media appearances and in his address, he wove personal anecdotes of raising his own children and recognizing the opportunities that are necessary to achieving success in this country. A senior Cantor aide told CNN, “he’s going to be talking about bread-and-butter issues–from one parent to another.”

After his speech, a reporter asked him about the larger context of the speech and the direction the Republican Party is heading. Cantor replied, “The average America is not thinking about and trying to wonder about where the Republican Party is. They’re thinking about how to make their life work, which is exactly what we’re talking about here today.”