Former House speaker Newt Gingrich said in Monday night's GOP presidential debate that he liked parts of the DREAM Act, citing the provision that would allow a path for citizenship for those that service in the military.
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney previously has said he would veto the DREAM Act but noted in Monday night's debate that he agreed with Gingrich on the military provision.
The issue is a huge one for Hispanics, an influential voting bloc, particularly in swing states like Florida, Arizona, New Mexico and Nevada.
Supporters of the legislation, including most Democrats, say the bill would empower motivated young people to develop skills that could benefit the entire country. Opponents, including most Republicans, argue that those living illegally in the country — even those brought involuntary as kids — broke the law and should be deported.
The DREAM Act passed the House in December of 2010, when Democrats still controlled the chamber, but was blocked by a GOP filibuster in the Senate.
Obama on Tuesday also called for comprehensive immigration reform, though he acknowledged that Washington's polarized environment likely that puts it out of reach. The DREAM Act, he said, should be a sort-of compromise between doing nothing and comprehensive reform.
"If election-year politics keeps Congress from acting on a comprehensive plan, let’s at least agree to stop expelling responsible young people who want to staff our labs, start new businesses, and defend this country," Obama said. "Send me a law that gives them the chance to earn their citizenship.
"I will sign it right away."