House slated for immigration fight in defense bill
© Getty Images

The House is slated for what will likely be contentious votes this week over allowing certain illegal immigrants to enlist in the military.


House GOP leaders decided late Tuesday night to grant floor time to two Republican-authored amendments to a defense spending bill. The amendments would ensure that no funds can be used to enlist in the military young illegal immigrants granted work permits under President Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

The amendments, authored by conservative Reps. Steve King (R-Iowa) and Paul GosarPaul Anthony GosarConservative lawmakers press Trump to suspend guest worker programs for a year Impeachment figure among those chosen for Facebook's new oversight board Cruz rebukes San Antonio City Council for denouncing 'Chinese virus' as hate speech MORE (R-Ariz.), are sure to cause uproar among Democrats and some centrist Republicans who believe DACA recipients should be allowed to serve in the military.

Immigration hard-liners such as King and Gosar say that only immigrants who are in the country legally should be able to serve in the armed forces.

Certain young illegal immigrants can qualify for the DACA program if they have lived in the U.S. since June 2007, immigrated before the age of 16 and are in school or have completed high school-level education.

The Obama administration is already enlisting DACA recipients through a program — called Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest (MAVNI) — that permits highly skilled legal immigrants with critical foreign language or medical abilities to serve in the military. 

The issue over allowing illegal immigrants to enlist in the military nearly threatened last year's defense authorization bill. During its markup, the House Armed Services Committee adopted a provision establishing a "sense of the House" that the Pentagon should review allowing DACA recipients to serve.

The House later stripped out that provision following fierce objections from conservatives.

While House GOP leaders are allowing a fight over illegal immigration over the course of considering the Defense Department spending bill this week, they sought to prevent another over gay rights in the aftermath of a mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando.

Left out of the 75 amendments the House Rules Committee made in order Tuesday night was an amendment from Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.) that would enforce a 2014 executive order prohibiting federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender.

Maloney's amendment caused trouble for two recent spending bills, which led House GOP leaders to begin clamping down on which amendments to appropriations measures can get votes. 

Maloney blasted GOP leaders for blocking a vote on his amendment in a series of tweets late Tuesday night, writing: "As an #LGBT American I'm at a loss. Our community suffers tremendous loss, now GOP lawmakers refuse to even allow a vote."

A final vote on the underlying defense spending bill is expected on Thursday.