LEESBURG, Va. -- House Democratic Caucus Chairman Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.) said on Wednesday that he was happy to hear Majority Leader Eric Cantor's (R-Va.) support for allowing undocumented young people to become citizens. But it's not enough, Becerra said.
"Been there, done that. We've moved on," Becerra said at a press conference. "I think the American people have moved on. ... I hope that they're going to put it on fast forward on the Republican side when it comes to dealing with immigration reform, because if the playing field for them is 'Dream Act is a good idea,' that's yesterday's news."
About three-quarters of House Democrats are gathering here this week to discuss their conference's most important issues, including immigration and gun control. One of the first panels on Wednesday discussed immigration. Becerra said members talked about the need to act, but not specifics of legislation.
Whether undocumented immigrants already living in the U.S. should be given a path to citizenship is a major question in immigration reform talks. Democrats, including President Barack Obama, say a pathway to citizenship must be included. Some Republicans agree, including GOP senators in the "gang of eight" that released a framework for reform last week. Other Republicans say reform should fall short of a full pathway to citizenship.
Cantor did not endorse a pathway to citizenship, but said on Tuesday that addressing young undocumented immigrants would be a good first step. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) told reporters earlier Wednesday that he is open to all ideas for immigration reform, including a pathway to citizenship for young undocumented immigrants.
Such a measure would largely align with the Dream Act, which passed the House in 2010, but failed in the Senate. Cantor opposed the bill at the time, and advocates count his new support as progress.
Becerra, a House leader on immigration reform, said he knows some Republicans support a pathway to citizenship for the broader undocumented population.
"We're moving forward, I think the president has made it very clear that he's moving forward," Becerra said. "Quite honestly, I think that most of the Republicans who want to get this done have fast-forwarded on this as well and are prepared to move far more aggressively."
Joseph Crowley (D-N.Y.), vice chair of the Democratic Caucus, said he appreciates Republicans' movement, but they still seem to be lagging behind. Republicans were pushing for mass deportation last year while Obama announced that his administration would grant deferred action that allowed some undocumented young people to stay in the country, said Crowley, who appeared in Leesburg with Becerra.
Taking on the Dream Act now, when deferred action already exists, would be ignoring the need for immigration reform, Crowley said.
"Now that we're moving on to a broader and expanded attempt to bring about comprehensive immigration reform, our Republican colleagues are talking about doing what the president in large part has already done," Crowley said. "The heavy lifting was done by the president, and somehow our Republican colleagues want to take some credit for what was done already."