House Speaker Boehner

Speaker of the House John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) speaks to the media on Capitol Hill. (Jim Lo Scalzo / EPA / January 8, 2014)

WASHINGTON — House speaker John A. Boehner told rank-and-file Republicans that his leadership team was drafting “principles” for overhauling immigration laws that will be presented in coming weeks.

Boehner made the remarks Wednesday during the first private meeting of House Republicans in the new year. House Republicans have struggled to respond to the Senate's immigration bill that passed in June, which would create a path to citizenship for 11 million immigrants who entered the U.S. illegally. Boehner refused to bring the Senate bill up for a vote in the House last year and instead said the House should consider a series of narrower measures.

"We are working on a standards or principles document," Boehner said, according to a person in the room granted anonymity to discuss the private session. The document is being drafted by Boehner, his leadership team, including House Majority Leader Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), as well as other members interested in the issue. 

House Republican leaders believe that the GOP needs to support an immigration overhaul to woo Latino voters in advance of the 2016 presidential election.

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For several months, Boehner has said he wants to take a “step-by-step” approach to changing immigration laws. This would mean passing a raft of separate bills that would boost the number of visas for high-tech workers, fast-track legalization for farm workers in the country illegally and allow immigrants who came to the country illegally as children to apply for citizenship, among other provisions.

The small team of GOP members and staff has been working to draft a statement of basic principles on immigration policy for several weeks. The effort is being coordinated by Rebecca Tallent, former immigration advisor to Arizona Sen. John McCain and a veteran of the previous effort to pass immigration reform during the second term of President George W. Bush. Boehner hired Tallent in December.

The goal is to present the document — which could serve as an outline for future legislative action — before the House GOP retreat at a resort on the Eastern Shore of Maryland on Jan. 29, the person said.

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lisa.mascaro@latimes.com

Twitter: @lisamascaroinDC

brian.bennett@latimes.com

Twitter: @ByBrianBennett