House Majority Whip: Legalize undocumented immigrants

House Majority Whip: Legalize undocumented immigrants »Play Video
Congressman Kevin McCarthy discusses immigration reform Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2014, in Bakersfield, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX photo)

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) — Republican leaders, including House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, of Bakersfield, are calling for the first time to give legal status to millions of undocumented immigrants living in the United States.

The GOP leadership is in the process of drafting principles on immigration reform and will soon release a document that outlines the party's position on the politically sensitive and volatile issue.

In a Tuesday evening interview with Eyewitness News, McCarthy said he is in favor of granting legal status to those undocumented immigrants who qualify.

"The principles aren't written yet, but in my personal belief, I think it'll go with legal status that will allow you to work and pay taxes," said McCarthy.

Legal status would protect people from deportation. And, not all Republicans are on board with the idea.

"That's a decision that every Republican will have to make in laying out the principles, but that's my personal position," said the congressman.

Up to now, the Republican leadership has been largely silent on providing any particular details as to what kind of immigration plan it might propose. Democrats in the Senate passed a sweeping reform bill last year that called for providing a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. But, that bill was never taken up in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives.

McCarthy said he does not favor legislation that provides a pathway to citizenship. House Speaker John Boehner could release the immigration principles ahead of the State of the Union address to be given by President Barack Obama on Jan. 28.

But, Boehner first has to sell the plan to members of his own party, some of which have resisted any plan calling for legal status for undocumented immigrants.

And, there is no current piece of legislation being offered by Republicans. Unlike the sweeping immigration bill passed by the Senate, Republicans have said they will introduce immigration related bills on a smaller basis.

"We're going to take it section by section. The president said he's agreed to this," said McCarthy.