- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 14, 2015

House Republicans voted Thursday to strike language that would have pushed the administration to allow illegal immigrant Dreamers to sign up for the military, in a move whose symbolism far outstripped its effect.

GOP lawmakers said if they hadn’t removed the language from the annual defense policy bill, it could have been seen as a congressional endorsement of President Obama’s 2012 deportation amnesty, which granted Dreamers tentative legal status and work permits.

Democrats were enraged at the move, saying it insulted those willing to sign up and put their lives on the line to defend their adopted country.

“This is yet another example of an anti-immigrant attitude on the part of House Republicans,” said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

And Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Rodham Clinton weighed in with a statement from her campaign accusing Republicans of discrimination against illegal immigrants.

“If these courageous young men and women want to serve, they should be honored and celebrated, not discriminated against,” said Mrs. Clinton’s political director, Amanda Renteria.

SEE ALSO: Illegal immigrant children border crossings down 58 percent from 2014 surge

The vote to nix the Dreamer provision was 221-202, with all “Yes” votes coming from the Republican side. Twenty Republicans did defect to join with Democrats.

Republican leaders argued that the immigration fight was too poisonous to mix with the defense bill, which usually attracts strong bipartisan support. But Democrats, aided by a handful of Republicans, added the Dreamer provision in the Armed Services Committee last month.

The author of the Dreamer language, Rep. Ruben Gallego, Arizona Democrat and Marine veteran who served in Iraq, said his provision had no teeth — it was a symbolic statement that the Defense Department should consider allowing Dreamers to enlist.

Republicans, though, said the effect would be to endorse Mr. Obama’s 2012 amnesty, which granted temporary status to young adult illegal immigrants who had completed a certain level of education and had kept out of major criminal trouble. GOP lawmakers said Mr. Obama was acting beyond his powers when he issued his policy.

“This Congress cannot send a message to ratify the president’s lawless actions,” said Rep. Steve King, an Iowa Republican who said he would have had to vote against the defense bill if the Dreamer provision was left intact.

Rep. Mo Brooks, the Alabama Republican who led the fight to nix the Dreamer language, said allowing them to enlist would push Americans out of the military.

SEE ALSO: DHS broke judge’s order, approved amnesty applications despite injunction

But Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, a Washington Republican who defended Mr. Gallego’s provision, said those who volunteer to enlist should be welcomed.

“The military is not a jobs program,” she said. “If someone through their merit and hard work earns acceptance into that elite fighting force where they could die defending you and me, then I leave you with this question: what country’s flag would you have draped on the casket of that brave soul?”

Thursday’s vote was the latest skirmish over Dreamers.

Mr. Obama said he acted unilaterally because House Republicans wouldn’t work with him to legalize illegal immigrants in the first place.

The GOP, in retaliation, has voted to end the amnesty program altogether — though that has never been signed into law.

• Stephen Dinan can be reached at sdinan@washingtontimes.com.

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