NPR logo Calif. GOP Congressman Pushes 'Military DREAMer' Act

Calif. GOP Congressman Pushes 'Military DREAMer' Act

Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Calif., testifies in July 2013 on Capitol Hill before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security hearing. Evan Vucci/AP hide caption

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Evan Vucci/AP

Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Calif., testifies in July 2013 on Capitol Hill before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security hearing.

Evan Vucci/AP

A normally routine House Rules Committee meeting Tuesday could showcase the ongoing battle over immigration reform within the Republican Party.

California Republican Rep. Jeff Denham wants immigrants who were brought to this country illegally as children — often referred to as "DREAMers," after a legislative acronym — to be able earn permanent residency status by serving in the military.

He's wanted this, in fact, since last summer when he first filed his ENLIST Act. So far, it's gone nowhere in the House, and now he wants to attach it to this year's defense authorization bill — even though House Majority Leader Eric Cantor has already indicated he opposes that plan.

"The ENLIST Act provides an avenue for those who want to perform the ultimate act of patriotism — serving their county — to earn legal status. As a veteran, I can think of no better way to demonstrate your commitment to our nation," Denham said in a statement Monday.

The House Rules Committee meets Tuesday afternoon to decide which amendments will be permitted a floor vote when the defense bill is debated this week.

Denham represents a Central California district with a large Latino population. Cantor and many other Republicans are under pressure from their Tea Party wing to oppose any changes to immigration laws that permit undocumented immigrants to gain legal status.

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