Key chairman: GOP open to bringing illegal immigrants ‘out of the shadows’

House Republicans are open to passing legislation that helps illegal immigrants “come out of the shadows,” according to a key chairman.

Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), who has jurisdiction over immigration as head of the Judiciary Committee, said he could see a provision being included in a House immigration bill that lets illegal immigrants earn temporary legal status, then green cards and eventually U.S. citizenship.

"With regard to the legal status I think that I and other members are open-minded to the idea that they should have a way to come out of the shadows, to be able to work, to have their own businesses, to pay their taxes, to travel back and forth to their home country and elsewhere,” Goodlatte said in an interview with C-SPAN's "Newsmakers" taped Thursday and released Friday.

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Goodlatte said that after the immigrants attained temporary legal status they could then apply for permanent legal status and then, after a while, citizenship through processes that are already legal like marrying a U.S. citizen or being sponsored by an employer.

"All those are ways that they could eventually find themselves permanent residents and ultimately citizens," Goodlatte said. "But none of those are special ways that have been made available only to people who are here illegally."

It’s unclear how the system that Goodlatte described would work.

Goodlatte also expressed opposition to a citizenship provision like the one in the Senate bill that creates "a special pathway" for immigrants living in the country illegally. He said that provision is unfair to immigrants seeking legal status who have waited for years for their applications to be approved.

"To create a new category for people who came in here illegally does not sit well with a great many Americans," Goodlatte said.

Goodlatte, who has in the past expressed strong opposition to “amnesty” for illegal residents, is crafting legislation with House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) that would offer a citizenship path to immigrants who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children.

The bill is in its early stages, and comes even as House Republicans move a series of smaller, piecemeal bills to overhaul border security and other aspects of the nation's immigration system.

House Republicans are grappling with how to move forward on immigration after a conference meeting Wednesday on the issue.

At the meeting, Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) implored his rank-and-file to pass some form immigration legislation, and said the House would be in a weaker position if it fails to act.