Fox News host Sean Hannity said on Thursday that he's "evolved" on the issue of immigration.
Hannity made the comments during a post-election analysis on his radio show. Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney lost Hispanic voters badly to President Obama.
Romney even took fewer Cuban-Americans in Florida than Obama, according to a Florida exit poll. Cuban-Americans in the Sunshine State have traditionally been a solid GOP constituency.
"There is a fundamental shift going on. We've got to look at some of these demographics. You've got to look at what young voters are saying. The Hispanic vote went 70 percent Democrat. You know, Romney and [vice presidential candidate Paul] Ryan were crushed in these demographics," he added.
While the talk-show host doesn't hold political office, he's one of the most important voices on the right and his comments are sure to shift the public debate.
Hannity has long opposed immigration reform proposals that would provide a pathway to residency for those who have entered the country illegally, deriding it as "amnesty." But in his post-election comments, he suggested the GOP had to move on the issue to keep from losing the fastest-growing bloc in the country.
“We've got to get rid of the immigration issue altogether. It’s simple, to me, to fix it. I think you control the border first. You create a pathway for those people that are here. You don’t say, 'You’ve got to go home.' And that is a position that I’ve evolved on," he said. "Because, you know what, it’s got to be resolved.
"The majority of people here, if some people have criminal records you can send them home, but if people are here, law-abiding, participating for years, their kids are born here, you know, it’s first secure the border, pathway to citizenship, done, whatever little penalties you want to put in there, if you want, but then it’s done," Hannity said.
Media Matters for America, an organization that challenges conservative media, posted a clip of the Hannity show on its website and pointed to earlier comments from Hannity, in which he derided the DREAM Act as "basically amnesty." That legislation would have allowed certain people who entered the United States illegally as children to gain citizenship.
President Obama earlier this year took action to support the DREAM Act, announcing in June that his administration would stop deporting illegal immigrants who come to the country at a young age.
The Obama team slammed Republican challenger Romney for suggesting during the primary that illegal immigrants self-deport.
Seventy-one percent of Latinos voted for the president, compared to 27 percent for Romney, despite continuous attempts to appeal to the demographic, according to The Washington Post.