WASHINGTON John Boehner said on Friday the country's immigration system was broken, although he did not offer solutions and said President Barack Obama had to take the lead.
Immigration reform is becoming a priority for Republicans after Obama, a Democrat, won a second term in office this week with strong support from Hispanics.
When asked at a news conference whether he would endorse a pathway to citizenship, Boehner, speaker of the House of Representatives, said: "What I'm talking about is a common sense, step-by-step approach would secure our borders, allow us to enforce the laws, and fix a broken immigration system."
Many Republican leaders have taken a hard position against illegal immigrants. Obama's Republican challenger, Mitt Romney, said during the campaign that undocumented workers should "self-deport" from the country.
But after Obama was re-elected with overwhelming support from Hispanics, Republicans have acknowledged they need to do a better job of appealing to non-white voters.
"I believe Hispanics should be a natural constituency of conservatives," Republican Senator Ron Johnson, a Tea Party favorite, told Reuters.
"Unfortunately, Republicans haven't provided them with a home... in terms of some of our hostility toward the immigration issue. We haven't handled that well," he said.
Boehner has said a comprehensive approach to immigration reform is needed and that he was confident Republicans could find common ground with Obama.
(Reporting By Tom Ferraro, Rachelle Younglai; Editing by Claudia Parsons)