Becerra: Cantor Dream Act proposal 'so yesterday'

"If they're going to talk about doing something for Dreamers that's short of even what the president did? I mean, come on. We've been there, we've done that, that's so yesterday," Becerra told reporters in the Capitol.

"We hope that they're prepared to join us in today's world and not talk about, you know, the 20th century," he added.

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Becerra, the head of the House Democratic Caucus, said any GOP plan to deal with the nation's illegal immigrants represents progress for a Republican Party that for years has rejected so-called "amnesty" bills. 

He emphasized, however, that any proposal that doesn't address the entire population of illegal immigrants would create a sub-class of residents, an outcome he warned Democrats won't accept.

"So much of this sounds like last century's conversation on immigration. And I think for most of us … who believe this is a personal issue on immigration, to be part of any effort to create a second class of Americans, I just can't swallow that," he said.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) are drafting a proposal providing a path to citizenship for immigrants who were brought to the United States illegally as children. 

The idea has been championed by President Obama and Democrats for years – even passing the House under Democratic control in 2010. But Republican opposition prevented the measure from becoming law, and GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney vowed to veto the Dream Act during last year's campaign.

Those dynamics have shifted sharply since November's election, however, when Obama won more than 70 percent of the ever-growing Hispanic vote. National GOP leaders have long-warned congressional Republicans that continued opposition to immigration reform could solidify that lopsided vote in future national elections, and GOP leaders on Capitol Hill have vowed to move on the issue this year.

The Senate has already endorsed a version of the Dream Act as part of the comprehensive immigration reform bill that passed the upper chamber late last month. But House GOP leaders have refused to consider the Senate package, opting instead for a piecemeal approach that focuses heavily on border security.

Republican aides have said the Cantor-Goodlatte Dream Act proposal will not be as broad as the Senate version, which carves out a path to citizenship for certain illegal immigrants who have attended college or served in the military. 

Becerra said Wednesday that the House should follow the example of the upper chamber.

"The Senate has shown that we can do something for the Dreamers and there's no reason why, on a bipartisan basis, the House shouldn't as well," he said.

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) on Wednesday endorsed efforts to grant citizenship to children of illegal immigrants.

“This is about basic fairness,” Boehner told reporters. “These children were brought here of no accord of their own, and frankly they’re in a very difficult position."

A bipartisan group of seven House lawmakers is also negotiating a plan for comprehensive reform and the members insist they'll have a bill this year. The four Democrats in that group have already endorsed the 500-page bill that's emerged from those talks, but the three Republicans have yet to follow suit. 

Becerra, one of those negotiators, said the group remains "determined to get this deal," and lawmakers are simply scouring the complicated language to ensure that "what you thought you agreed to, what you thought you had written, is reflected in what [legislative] counsel has returned to you."

But more than four years into the bipartisan talks, the California liberal has stopped making predictions about when the proposal might be released.