Durbin: Cantor shouldn't affect Defense plan

The Obama administration should not take the primary defeat of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) as a reason to move on allowing more illegal immigrants to serve in the military, according to Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.).

The White House earlier this month reportedly asked the Pentagon to wait on shifting policy in order to give House Republicans time to pass comprehensive immigration reform.

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“The president spelled it out: we’re giving the House until the end of July to call the bill for a vote,” Durbin told The Hill. “If they fail to do that, the White House, the president, is going to look at all the options to see what he can do.”

The administration should not reverse course in the wake of Cantor’s loss, he said.

The Defense Department’s plan would allow immigrants who came to the U.S. illegally as children but have work permits to serve in uniform if they qualify for the Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest program.

The effort lets in a select number of non-citizens with specific language and medical skills to join the military and gain a path to citizenship. Pentagon leaders in recent weeks stated they hoped to expand the program, allowing more young illegal immigrants to sign up.

Last month Cantor successfully blocked an attempt by a fellow Republican to attach language to the 2015 defense authorization bill giving green cards to illegal immigrants who serve honorably in the military.

At the time, Cantor downplayed concerns that his primary election influenced his decision to block the legislation, commonly known as the ENLIST Act, even though his opponent, David Brat, was hammering him on immigration issues.