White House seeks delay of DOD immigration rule

The White House has reportedly asked the Pentagon to delay a plan allowing some illegal immigrants to gain citizenship through military service.

Obama administration officials hope that by delaying this and other controversial executive actions through the summer, they may open a window for House Republicans to move on a comprehensive immigration reform bill.

Under the Pentagon plan, certain immigrants who came to the U.S. illegally as children but became eligible for work permits under the president's deferred action program would be eligible for military service. The set number of individuals with specific language or medical skills would subsequently become eligible for citizenship after completing their military service.

Because of the skill requirements, the number of individuals that would be eligible for the program was expected to be minimal. About half a million immigrants have benefited from the deferred action program overall, but the number looking to enlist and meeting the program's specific criteria is expected to be far lower.

Still, the White House hopes the gesture, reported by The Associated Press and The New York Times on Monday, will be well received on Capitol Hill, where Republican leaders have said they are reluctant to move forward on immigration reform because they cannot trust the president to enforce the law.

"The president is convinced there is a legislative opportunity, and that gives us the best opportunity to fix what's broken in our immigration system," White House spokesman Bobby Whithorne said in a statement. "He wants to leave no stone unturned to make sure the House takes that opportunity, follows the Senate's lead and takes action."

Last month, administration officials said the Department of Homeland Security would hold off on a review of deportation procedures until late summer. That review was expected to propose ways the administration could slow or halt record deportations of illegal immigrants.

But Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) accused Obama of "playing politics" with the announced delay.

"Enforcing the law as written isn't a 'concession' — it is the president's solemn responsibility," said Boehner spokesman Michael Steel. "Now isn't the time to be playing politics with immigration enforcement or our national security." 

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