Rep. Jeff DenhamJeffrey (Jeff) John DenhamBottom line Bottom line Business groups breathe sigh of relief over prospect of divided government MORE (R-Calif.) reintroduced legislation on Thursday to make illegal immigrants eligible for citizenship upon completing military service.
Denham has introduced the measure, known as the ENLIST Act, repeatedly over the last two years, as both a separate bill and an amendment to the annual national defense authorization.
The proposal was made in order as an amendment to the defense authorization in 2013, but Denham later withdrew it when it came up on the floor after colleagues urged debating it as a standalone measure. Then House GOP leaders prevented Denham's amendment from getting a floor vote at all in 2014.
Denham represents a district with a large Hispanic population and is one of the few Republicans who has endorsed comprehensive immigration reform. He argued that immigrants without documentation who grew up in the U.S. should nonetheless be given a chance to serve their country in the military.
"The ENLIST Act would give young adults who came here to no fault of their own, that have graduated from our high schools, that can pass a background check, that can speak English, that the military is asking for to protect and defend the nation that they know and love," Denham said on the House floor.
"This is an act of patriotism. This is an opportunity to create a greater national defense and an opportunity for those kids that know of no other country to call home to actually pledge allegiance and be patriots of this great nation," Denham concluded.
The House Armed Services Committee is slated to mark up its massive defense authorization for the upcoming fiscal year on Wednesday. Floor consideration is expected sometime in May.