Conservative Groups Urge House GOP To Reject ‘Backdoor Amnesty’ Bill

By Barbara Hollingsworth | May 15, 2014 | 4:57 PM EDT

Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Calif.) (Wikipedia)

( – Conservative groups – including Heritage Action and the Madison Project – are urging members of Congress to vote against the entire $496 billion 2015 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) if a “backdoor amnesty” amendment is added to the must-pass legislation.

House conservatives have been trying to block the Encourage New Legalized Immigrants to Start Training (ENLIST) Act (HR 2377) from reaching the House floor for a key vote next week.

Introduced by Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Calif.), a close ally of House Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) – the ENLIST Act would allow the children of illegal aliens to serve in the military and then become legal permanent residents of the U.S.

But critics say it will turn the U.S. military into a fast-track “visa mill” for illegal aliens.

“They [the Republican leadership] want to get some sort of immigration legislation in some fashion through the House,” Daniel Horowitz, policy director of the Madison Project, told “It’s very clear that [amnesty] is a very important political issue on both sides, but they know that it does not sell well on the outside.

“But if the GOP House passes amnesty and ships it off to the Senate, we will really lose control” of the immigration debate, he added, noting that “the Democrats want Republicans to buy the noose that hangs them.”

Horowitz pointed out that the ENLIST Act is not only “a big national security problem,” it also poses a political problem for Republicans coming on the heels of revelations that the Obama administration released 36,000 illegal aliens last year, including hundreds with felony convictions.

“Instead of using the power of the purse to force Obama to enforce the law, they agree with him,” he told “This is tone-deaf timing. It rewards Obama’s bad behavior.”

.“Advancing an amnesty-first agenda on the backs of our brave men and women in the military is deplorable,” Heritage Action chief executive officer Michael Needham said in a blast memo to supporters.

“The ENLIST Act creates radical and perverse incentives that will have a negative impact on our military and our immigration system. It has no place in a debate over the future of our military, which is currently reducing personnel. The House Rules Committee should keep this contentious issue out of the NDAA.”

House Armed Services Committee chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) is one of 49 co-sponsors, but he opposed adding the ENLIST Act to the NDAA in committee.

“I don’t think that’s where it belongs,” McKeon told conservative radio talk show host Laura Ingraham last month, adding that the issue “should be discussed in a full debate by the Judiciary Committee.”

Rep. Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) (AP photo)

But Denham, who said his bill “will allow qualified undocumented immigrants who were brought into the United States on or before December 31, 2011 at or under the age of 15 to become Legal Permanent Residents (LPR) to the U.S. through their honorable service and sacrifice by serving in the U.S. military,” is seeking to bypass the Judiciary Committee by forcing a floor vote on the measure.

In 2013, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor backed Denham’s earlier attempt to bring the amendment to the House floor for a vote. But it was killed at the last moment by Judiciary Committee chairman Bob Goodlatte, who pointed out that his committee had jurisdiction on immigration matters.

The Heritage Foundation noted in an April 15th issue brief opposing the bill that under the proposal, illegal immigrants “would be required to take an oath to ‘support and defend the Constitution of the United States’ even though they are still technically citizens of other countries.”

The issue brief added that such a policy is not necessary to maintain military staffing, since ”the military has almost completely met or exceeded its recruiting goals for at least the past two fiscal years.”