A key figure on the Republican side has agreed to back immigration reform with legal status for the undocumented.

Chief Deputy Whip of the U.S. House of Representatives, Kevin McCarthy, spoke to his local news station, of Bakersfield, CA on the drafting of the party’s principles of immigration reform.

His move now means that the entire GOP House leadership, Speaker Boehner, his number two Eric Cantor, McCarthy, and Congressman Paul Ryan all support an immigration reform bill.

This could mean that a bill will be on the floor in the Republican-controlled House by April, say experts. A bill has already passed the Senate and both bills would have to be reconciled.

McCarthy, a longtime target of immigration advocates, told Eyewitness News, “People understand that the immigration system today doesn’t work. That you have 42 percent of the people that are here illegally came here legally on a visa. You have to reform the visa program.”

While against a “pathway to citizenship,” predominantly supported by the Democrats, McCarthy said that he does support principles of a legal status being afforded to those who have become undocumented. According to a Fox poll carried out this week, nearly seven in ten voters support a pathway to citizenship for the undocumented in the US.

McCarthy said that although these Republican principles of immigration reform are not yet written out he believes they will go with legal status.

“It will allow you to work, pay your taxes, and other, but if you want to apply for citizenship you have to go through the path, there won’t be amnesty.”

This legal status would allow the 11 million undocumented – around 50,000 of which are Irish – to travel, pay taxes and most importantly live without fear of deportation.

Until now the Republican leadership has not provided any details on what immigration plan they might propose.

Last year the US Senate passed an immigration reform bill calling for a pathway to citizenship, but this bill was never taken up by the House of Representatives.

Republicans have now said that they will introduce immigration bills on a smaller basis, piece by piece.

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

House Speaker John Boehner said these Republican principles of immigration reform could be released before President Obama's State of the Union address on Jan. 28. However, Boehner first has to sell the plan to his own party.

Republicans are expected to debate the set of principles at their annual retreat later this month.

Here’s the Eyewitness News report: