The possibility of allowing young illegal immigrants to join the military has been rejected by the House of Representatives.
A measure was included in the annual defense bill that would have allowed the Pentagon to consider permitting young immigrants who reside in the country illegally, but have been given temporary legal status under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program started by President Obama, to enlist in the military, The Los Angeles Times reports.
The measure had bipartisan support in the House Armed Services Committee but in a House vote of 221-202, the measure did not pass.
Republican Rep. Mo Brooks of Alabama led the effort to scratch the measure from the defense bill.
"This Congress should support and represent Americans by voting to stop military service opportunities from being taken from struggling American families in order to give them to illegal aliens," Brooks said. Brooks thus included an amendment to the bill that would remove the immigration language.
The House Republican majority viewed the immigration language as back-door “amnesty.”
Every House Democratic voted against Brooks’ amendment, with the following 20 Republicans joining them: Reps. Mike Coffman of Colorado, Carlos Curbelo and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida, Jeff Denham and David Valadao of California, Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania, Mario Diaz-Balart of Florida, Bob Dold and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, Chris Gibson, John Katko, Elise Stefanik and Richard Hanna of New York, Jaime Herrera Beutler, Dave Reichert and Dan Newhouse of Washington, Frank LoBiondo and Tom MacArthur of New Jersey, Martha McSally of Arizona, and Fred Upton of Michigan.
Democrats referred to Brooks’ amendment as “xenophobic,” “extremist” and “un-American.”
"This is yet another example of anti-immigrant attitude on the part of the House Republicans," said Democratic Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California, the minority leader.
The measure’s author, Democratic Rep. Ruben Gallego of Arizona, spoke out about how the “DREAMers” — the name members of the DACA program call themselves — want nothing more than to serve the United States.
"The DREAMers in this country are deeply patriotic," Gallego said. "Many of them want nothing more than to serve the United States in uniform."
"There is no military recruitment and retention deficit that justifies supplanting Americans and lawful immigrants with illegal aliens," Brooks said. His statement came after he said the amendment’s immigration language was adopted during the “early morning, sleep deprived portion” of the bill’s markup in the House Armed Services Committee and should not be included.
The Hillary Clinton presidential campaign weighed in on the issue.
"If these courageous young men and women want to serve, they should be honored and celebrated, not discriminated against," said Amanda Renteria, Hillary for America's national political director. "While we keep up the pressure for comprehensive action, allowing DREAMers to serve in the military is the right step forward."
In 2009, more than 100,000 foreign-born people were serving in the military. Most were nationalized citizens but it is estimated that 12 percent were illegal immigrants who had used false papers to enter the military illegally.
More than 80 DACA recipients have been recruited into the Army since January. They are able to join through a Pentagon program, known as the Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest program, designed specifically for illegal immigrants with medical training or useful language skills.
RELATED: Republicans Who Became Democrats