Rep. Jeff DenhamJeffrey (Jeff) John DenhamBottom line Bottom line Business groups breathe sigh of relief over prospect of divided government MORE (R-Calif.) said the Defense Department's announcement on Thursday to give a small number of young immigrants in the country illegally an opportunity to serve in the military was a "step forward."

Denham, one of the few House Republicans who supports a pathway to citizenship as part of comprehensive immigration reform, has introduced a bill called the ENLIST Act to allow illegal immigrants to be eligible for American citizenship in exchange for military service.

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However, the California Republican said the Pentagon's measure would not allow offer all illegal immigrants the chance to gain citizenship for serving in the military. The Defense Department's program would only apply to people with specialized language or medical skills whose deportations have been deferred by the administration. Even then, not all applicants would necessarily be enlisted.

"Today's decision from the Department of Defense is a step forward for DREAMers who want to serve this great country. Unfortunately, while it mirrors the intent of my ENLIST Act, it would not allow all qualified the opportunity to serve the country they know as home," Denham said.

He said that Congress should pass a bill to allow illegal immigrants to serve in the military rather than relying on the administration to issue limited executive action.

"Legislation is the only lasting solution for the men and women brought to this country through no fault of their own who want to perform the ultimate act of patriotism in defending America," Denham said.