Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), the ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee and arguably the leading intellectual force against amnesty in Congress, is coming out hard against a proposal backed by Majority Leader Eric Cantor to grant amnesty to illegal alien DREAMers who enlist in the military.
“We are now in a period of very large troop reductions. The last thing this nation should be doing is to provide those few slots to persons who illegally entered the United States or who overstayed their visas while denying young Americans the ability to serve their country,” Sessions said in a written statement provided exclusively to Breitbart News.
Sessions’ opposition is a major blow to the push – led in the House by sophomore Republican Rep. Jeff Denham of California – to grant permanent legal residency to illegal aliens who entered under the country under the age of 15 – the so-called “DREAMers” named after the “DREAM Act” that would grant amnesty to the entire class of young immigrants.
The new opposition comes just after Cantor officially backed the policy for the first time in a statement to Breitbart News published Monday. Cantor also made a “pledge” to Denham to help him push the measure through, according to Rep. Buck McKeon, the powerful chairman of the House Armed Services Committee.
Sessions said the new policy would provide a new incentive for individuals in foreign nations to illegally immigrate to the U.S. and sends a message that the nation’s immigration laws won’t be enforced.
“Such a policy would be another unacceptable action that sends a message that this nation is not willing to take the most basic actions to end the immigration lawlessness. The first step is to stop rewarding it, as with a career in the United States military–which is not a job Americans won’t do. It is a high calling and a noble career. I am not aware of any evidence indicating that there is a lack of qualified applicants to meet the needs of the armed services,” Sessions said.
Sessions cited a recent New York Times report that shows potential future illegal aliens worldwide now know the Obama administration does not enforcement immigration laws. So, Sessions said, that global knowledge that Obama does not deport illegal aliens “is leading to a massive spike in illegal crossings.”
“With detention facilities, asylum offices and immigration courts overwhelmed, enough migrants have been released temporarily in the United States that back home in Central America people have heard that those who make it to American soil have a good chance of staying,” the Times wrote, before quoting National Border Patrol Council vice president Chris Cabrera as saying: “Word has gotten out that we’re giving people permission and walking them out the door. So they’re coming across in droves.”
Sessions argued that the push from the House GOP to grant so-called DREAMers amnesty if they enlist in the military actually creates more such incentives, like Obama’s non-enforcement mechanisms, for illegal aliens to get into the country. Sessions also worries that Senate Democrats could take such language in the NDAA and broaden the amnesty the House GOP leadership agreed to.
“We must remove incentives and avenues for illegal entry, immigration fraud and phony asylum claims — not create even more,” Sessions told Breitbart News. “The Administration would also certainly expand any provision far beyond its legal wording. Additionally, Democrats in the Senate could add an even wider amnesty for illegal workers combined with a large expansion of guest worker programs. This is a real threat to American workers.”
Proponents have argued the change would affect a fairly small number of people and have said that military service should be enough to make amends of the initial illegal border crossing that brought the young immigrants to the country in the first place.
The bill text would limit eligibility to aliens who entered the country before December 2011.
Days after Breitbart News first revealed a quiet push to insert the proposal into the base text of the National Defense Authorization Act, McKeon announced he would not be including the langauge in the “chairman’s mark” – the version of the bill he introduces.
Though McKeon dealt a blow to the effort by saying he would not after all include the language in the base bill he will introduce later this month, McKeon has not ruled out including amnesty in the NDAA via the bill markup amendment process in his full committee. Subcommittee on Military Personnel chairman Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC)–who has not publicly stated opposition to the amnesty play in the NDAA but is expected to oppose the effort personally–has not said whether he will allow such pro-amnesty amendments during his subcommittee’s markup of the NDAA. A spokeswoman for Wilson has not returned multiple requests for comment on the matter from Breitbart News.
Still, Denham’s top lieutenant in the push, Rep. Mike Coffman (R-CO), a Colorado Republican who received one of the lowest winning percentages of any House member in the 2012 elections, may try to add a version of the proposal as an amendment when the bill is marked up in the Armed Services Committee.
Denham has separately said he will work to offer the bill as an amendment on the House floor when the NDAA comes up for consideration if it is not in the underlying bill.
That scenario could set up another clash between Cantor and Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee who killed a 2013 effort to allow a vote on the proposal after a dramatic floor struggle. Key lawmakers on the Judiciary Committee opposed to the policy are lobbying Goodlatte to assert jurisdiction over the matter, and Goodlatte has not weighed in publicly besides telling Breitbart News “we’re working on it.”
Although Cantor’s backing will be crucial, the emergence of Sessions as a vocal opponent won’t help Denham’s efforts.
On a broad level, Sessions said that the Republican Party should not be focused on pushing amnesty–or doing anything that helps further comprehensive immigration reform efforts. Instead, he called on all Republican lawmakers to fight for American workers struggling in the Obama economy over helping illegal aliens, potential future immigrants and business and other special interests lobbying for amnesty and a massive increase in legal immigration.
“Congress needs to get its priorities straight,” Sessions said. “With wages down and unemployment high we need to focus on measures that get Americans into good jobs with good wages. House Republicans must be the one institution that stands firmly for the American worker and the national interest.”