WASHINGTON — Immigration advocates angry that legislation has stalled in Congress are increasingly focusing their ire at one person: Eric Cantor, the House majority leader.
More so than House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, Cantor is seen as responsible for the House’s election-year failure to act on immigration 11 months after the Senate passed a wide-ranging bill with billions for border security and a path to citizenship for the 11.5 million immigrants in the country illegally. The issue is a top priority for President Obama.
‘‘Eric Cantor is the number one guy standing between the American people and immigration reform,’’ Frank Sharry, executive director of America’s Voice, a pro-immigrant group, said on a conference call Wednesday organized by Democratic activists and immigrant advocates to criticize Cantor.
The Virginia Republican, widely seen as having ambitions of being speaker one day, faces a Tea Party primary challenge and has hardened his stance on immigration.
According to Representative Jeff Denham, Republican of California, Cantor committed last year to helping him bring legislation to a vote granting citizenship to immigrants brought here illegally as kids who serve in the military. No agreement was reached, and Cantor’s office said Friday that Denham’s measure would not even be allowed to come to the floor this year.
Cantor’s spokesman, Doug Heye, said that Cantor continues to support Denham’s bill and conversations are ongoing. Heye said Cantor never committed to bringing the bill to a vote, just to working on it.
Political considerations play no role, Heye said.
But Cantor is facing pressure on immigration from his primary opponent, Dave Brat, an economics professor at Randolph-Macon College. Brat is a long shot to unseat Cantor, but his candidacy has attracted attention from prominent Republicans.
Brat has seized on the dispute around Denham’s bill, accusing Cantor in an opinion piece published in a local online community forum of supporting the legislation ‘‘until he saw my primary challenge and principled conservatives’ stand on amnesty.’’