In recent days, support for legal status for undocumented immigrants was also voiced by Sen. Rand Paul, Texas Gov. Rick Perry and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush -- all GOP presidential contenders.
House Speaker John Boehner has denied making any clear commitment to the White House to overhaul immigration, distrustful that President Obama will enforce a deal combining border security with legalization and possibly citizenship. But Boehner has laid down clear immigration-reform principles that have proven widely popular.
So the political tide among conservatives and Republicans may be turning in favor of immigration reform. As a longtime supporter of reform -- who believes that immigration is a pro-growth issue -- I am delighted to see these developments.
If the GOP is to recapture the Senate come November, and move on to retake the presidency in 2016, it must have a strong pro-growth message. Jobs and the economy are going to be key issues. Tax reform, regulatory rollbacks and a rewriting of Obamacare that ends the mandates and provides real health care freedom to choose are vital points.
But so is the immigration issue.
Not only because it is pro-growth but because the Republican Party must return to its Big Tent roots. It must follow the lead of Ronald Reagan and Jack Kemp. It must reach out to Hispanics, African Americans, young people and women. A conservative Catholic such as myself can work inside the same tent as my Log Cabin Republican friends.
In doing so, the GOP can maintain its core conservative principles of economic growth, limited government and military strength. As Reagan taught us, strength at home in the domestic economy is vital to strength abroad in national security. That must not change. Nor should the GOP's longtime support for defending the life of the unborn.
But the GOP will not be successful unless it actively reaches out to groups that have recently deserted it. It must show independents and disaffected Democrats that the Republican Party is open for business, ready to spread its wings to attract greater support.
Immigration reform is a crucial symbol in the GOP reach-out effort. It will create new trust in a party that can govern for all.