Ranking Democrat seeks legal status for illegal immigrants in military

The top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee proposed a budget amendment Wednesday evening that would give some illegal immigrants serving in the military permanent legal status.

“If an individual has been in the United States since a young age, and is committed enough to join the military, then they should be provided with the opportunity to become a permanent legal resident. It’s that simple,” Rep. Adam SmithAdam SmithPentagon urges Congress to move 6M for missile defense Pass the Protecting Data at the Border Act Overnight Defense: Mattis makes surprise visit to Afghanistan | Army general deploys to Puerto Rico to oversee hurricane relief | Senate panel advances Joint Chiefs chair's nomination MORE (D-Wash.) said in a statement Thursday.

The committee ruled that the amendment could not be considered because it was not within the committee's jurisdiction, but Smith said he would continue to push the measure.

The amendment would have allowed immigrants who came to the United States illegally before the age of 15 and served in the armed forces to apply for permanent legal status.

“There is no better way for a young individual who feels a strong sense of connection to this country to become a citizen than to serve in the armed forces. My amendment will provide that opportunity, and I will continue to work to attempt to overcome the procedural hurdles to this bill," Smith said.

The amendment was modeled after the "ENLIST Act" put forward by Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Calif.), a statement by Smith's office said.