A prominent Republican is warning his party about its rhetoric on immigration reform.

During a recent speech at an event hosted by The Ripon Society, former Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie said, “We favor welcoming legal immigrants into this country and believe it's a good thing.

"But sometimes that policy gets lost because we’re so busy talking about keeping illegal immigrants out," he said.

Gillespie said Republicans have a responsibility to "welcome people" into the U.S.

His comments come as the party grapples with immigration issues, with some Republicans favoring a guest-worker program and most calling for stricter border controls.

Gillespie was a senior aide to former President George W. Bush, who unsuccessfully pushed Congress to pass a comprehensive immigration reform measure.

"We have not only a right, but an obligation to secure our borders," Gillespie said. "But we also have to welcome people into our country and into our party, I would argue as a Republican. I say that not based on any theory. I know this to be a fact."

GOP strategists note that the percentage of Hispanics in the U.S. is on a significant upswing, arguing that unless Republicans shift course, Democrats will attract a larger share of their support at the polls.