LEESBURG, Va. — Top Democrats are walking a fine line in assessing the GOP’s signals on an immigration overhaul, both criticizing what they described as tepid steps forward by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor while praising what Republicans privately say they will be willing to do.
At a speech billed as a rebranding of the GOP’s image, the Virginia Republican said he would support citizenship for young people brought to the country illegally as children.
But Democratic Caucus Chairman Xavier Becerra called the shift small potatoes.
“Been there, done that. We’ve moved on. I think the American people have moved on. It’s great that our Republican colleagues are catching up,” the California lawmaker said at a news conference here, where House Democrats are gathered for a retreat over the next two days.
But Becerra, who is part of a secretive bipartisan working group on the topic that includes several conservative Republican lawmakers, did not dismiss signals by the GOP that it is open to moving immigration legislation.
He described a House Judiciary Committee hearing Tuesday as encouraging, saying, “I didn’t hear Republicans speaking about how it is impossible and how there should be death placed upon anyone who tries to fix the system comprehensively.”
“Perhaps the most encouraging thing for me is the conversations I hear privately outside of the reach of a camera from some of my Republican friends and colleagues who I believe understand that the American people are ready to fix this broken immigration system,” he added.
At a closed-door session on immigration moderated by California Democratic Rep. Zoe Lofgren, who is also part of the working group, Lofgren did not update Members on specifics of the bipartisan discussions, Becerra said. Speakers included Angela Kelley from the Center for American Progress and Drew Westen, a professor of psychology and psychiatry at Emory University.