GOP leaders set to embrace legal status for immigrants

House Republican leaders are preparing for the first time to endorse legal status for many of the 11 million people living in the U.S. illegally, a step that could jump-start the moribund immigration debate.

As early as next week, House Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio) and other GOP leaders will release a one-page set of principles outlining how they hope to overhaul the immigration system, people familiar with their plans say. It will stop short of offering the sort of path to citizenship endorsed by the Senate, but represents a major step toward what immigration advocates and Democrats have long sought.

The issue has divided Republicans, forcing House leaders to navigate between GOP forces that oppose anything that looks like amnesty, and others who believe it is both unrealistic and politically foolish to expect illegal immigrants to go home.

Mr. Boehner and his team plan to circulate the principles in hopes of building support among rank-and-file lawmakers, according to people familiar with the plans. The speaker aims to release the document publicly ahead of the State of the Union speech on Jan. 28, when President Barack Obama is expected to renew his call for Congress to pass immigration legislation.

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