Several questioned whether there's a way short of citizenship to deal with illegal immigrants, and others on the panel agreed on the need to allow more high-skilled workers to enter the country, a priority for technology companies.
"Let's not let the more contentious issues and the idea of comprehensive reform prevent us from passing something,'' said Rep. Spencer Bachus, R-Ala.
It was part of a larger shift by Republicans who have begun to embrace action on immigration reform in the wake of the November elections in which large proportions of Hispanic voters supported Obama, helping him win re-election. Some GOP leaders have concluded that softening their views on immigration is becoming a political necessity.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., delivered a speech Tuesday embracing "an opportunity for legal residence and citizenship for those who were brought to this country as children and who know no other home.'' It appeared to be a change for Cantor, who voted against DREAM Act legislation to allow a path to citizenship for certain immigrants brought here as youths.