Cantor: Initial efforts on immigration reform should focus on children

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House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said Sunday that Congress should begin to address immigration reform by looking at legislation to legalize those brought to the U.S. children.

"The best place to begin I think is with the children. Let's go ahead and get that under our belt, put a win on the board so we can promise a better life for those kids who are here due to no fault of their own," Cantor said on NBC’s “Meet The Press.”

Cantor said sounded an optimistic note on the prospects for immigration reform, saying that here is "a lot of movement" in both chambers of Congress. He added that it was important to "balance" the need for heightened border security with compassion towards those who are here illegally.

But Cantor cautioned that Congress should first move forward by dealing with undocumented children, rather than waiting to address with immigration in a comprehensive package.

When asked if that meant he supported the DREAM Act, Cantor said he didn't know the current status of the bill, but said he supported its underlying principles.

Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), the architect of the DREAM Act and one of the bipartisan "gang of eight" senators pushing a framework for comprehensive immigration reform, disagreed with Cantor's approach during a later appearance on the show.

"The DREAM Act means more to me than I can express. I've met these young people. But they will tell you, 'Yes I want a future, but what about my mom and dad.' They understand full well that these family structures are critically important to the future of America," Durbin said. "In the Senate we have a bipartisan goal of a pathway to citizenship. Not stopping at the DREAM Act, beginning at the DREAM Act and pushing forward."

Durbin also pointed out that Cantor had opposed the DREAM Act repeatedly since Durbin introduced it 12 years ago.

Cantor had voted against DREAM Act legislation in the past, but last week he said he supported those measures in a speech geared toward rebranding the GOP’s image.