Denham Ignores Cantor, Pushes ENLIST Amendment Anyway

Friday, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor indicated that he wouldn't allow a vote this week on a proposal to grant amnesty to illegal alien DREAMers who enlist in the military. But Monday, the measure's chief sponsor filed it as an amendment to a defense bill anyway. 

The bold move from California Republican Rep. Jeff Denham sets up a clash between his effort and GOP leadership on the hot-button issue of immigration.

In addition to the ENLIST Act, which would provide a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who serve in the military, Denham filed two additional amendments to the National Defense Authorization Act Monday. 

One identifies other immigration-related provisions in the NDAA, while another mandates a Defense Department report on the number of undocumented immigrants since 2000 who enlisted in the military and eventually gained citizenship. 

“The ENLIST Act would allow otherwise qualified undocumented immigrants brought here by their parents through no fault of their own to earn legal status through military service,” Denham said in a Monday statement. “It’s a change to military code, not immigration law. Many say the NDAA shouldn’t address immigration — my second amendment identifies three other provisions that touch on the issue. If we want to include immigration in NDAA, then we should also consider the ENLIST Act.”

Friday, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor spokesman Doug Heye said "No proposed ENLIST amendments to NDAA will be made in order.” 

Cantor is currently facing a primary challenge from Randolph-Macon College economics professor Dave Brat who has attacked the Virginia lawmaker from the right on immigration. 

Michael Steel, spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner told the Associated Press that Boehner did not disagree with the majority leader’s decision. 

Denham offered the same bill to the NDAA last year, but withdrew it after House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte objected in a dramatic floor fight. 

The California Republican filed the ENLIST Act to the NDAA with Democratic co-sponsor Illinois Rep. Tammy Duckworth. 

“Young people who were brought to America as children and for whom America is their only home deserve the opportunity to pursue citizenship,” Duckworth said in a statement. “This is especially true for those who serve in our military. Those who are willing to defend and die for our nation deserve the opportunity to legally live in the country they are defending.”


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