"For me, this is about policy, not about politics. It's about doing the right thing, and I think this about righting a wrong," said state Senator Anthony Cannella (R-Ceres).
What may indicate the tide is turning, four Republican state lawmakers joined Democrats in supporting a resolution urging the federal government to pass immigration reform, including a pathway to citizenship for the millions in the United States illegally.
"First of all, I represent the 12th Senate District, I don't represent the Republican Party," said Cannella. "I do what's best for my district, number one. Number two: This is going to happen. And if anybody wants to get in the way, they're going to be steamrolled over."
The announcement comes as a surprise from members whose party is known for being tough on illegal immigrants. In California's gubernatorial primary, the GOP didn't want to talk about a pathway to citizenship. In the presidential election, Mitt Romney pushed for "self-deportation."
But with a dismal 29 percent of California voters registered as Republicans and very few GOP members holding legislative office, some say they had to change.
"Is it time for the Republicans? I think it's time for a lot of folks to finally wake up and see what's going on," said state Sen. Lou Correa (D-Santa Ana).
Some Republicans, though, say people shouldn't be surprised they're embracing immigration reform considering it aligns well with their beliefs, which is often overshadowed by inflammatory rhetoric.
"In many ways, it fits right within the core principles of the Republican party: opportunity, prosperity, entrepreneurialism, rewarding hard work," said state Assm. Jeff Gorell (R-Camarillo).
The GOP is also facing the reality that the Latino population in California is on track to surpass the Caucasian population early next year.
"The Republicans, they definitely know they need us for the next election, so this is the year. The time is now," said Whittier resident Diana Colin, who was brought to the U.S. illegally.
In another surprise move, Senator Cannella announced is he's co-authoring a Democratic bill to allow undocumented immigrants to apply for driver's licenses.