GOP Rep: Many House Republicans will sign onto immigration bill


Rep. Jeff Denham (R) California, running for re-election to U.S. House in 2012, 10th congressional district; official portrait obtained from Rep. Jeff Denham federal congressional office

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(CNN) — The only House Republican to so far sign onto a Democratic immigration bill in the lower chamber thinks he will soon be joined by many other Republicans.

Asked by CNN’s Wolf Blitzer Monday how many other Republicans will sign onto the House bill, Rep. Jeff Denham answered that “I’m confident we’re going to get a huge number of Republicans,” he said, although “the ultimate number I think remains to be defined.”

The immigration bill in question has 185 Democrats signed on as co-sponsors. The Republican co-sponsors? One, Denham, a California Republican whose central-valley district is 40% Latino.

Like its Senate-passed cousin that Speaker John Boehner has refused to bring up, the House bill includes a pathway to citizenship for most of the nation’s 11 million estimated undocumented migrants. At minimum, that pathway would take 13 years, with 10 years just to become a legal permanent resident.

The difference between the House and Senate versions, Denham said, is border security. While the Senate bill greatly expanded the U.S. Border Patrol, it included little or no requirements for exactly how much the flow of undocumented workers must be stunted before the pathway to citizenship can even begin. That lack of metrics, along with a pathway to citizenship labeled as amnesty for lawbreakers by many in the GOP, has caused House Republicans to swear off the Senate version. They favor a piecemeal approach with multiple bills.

“We have now added the Republican version to this bill, that addresses that border security with real metrics, guaranteeing that we have a solid, over 90 percent success rate before we even implement the rest,” including the pathway, Denham said on “CNN Newsroom,” calling the bill “a bipartisan solution.”

The new House immigration bill is called “The Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act,” or bill H.R. 15. It includes Denham’s ENLIST Act which would allow for qualified undocumented immigrants to serve in the U.S. Armed Forces and thus earn their citizenship at an accelerated rate.

Immigration reform was placed on the backburner after the Senate bill passed in June. It has seen a new push after President Barack Obama made a renewed call for reform last week.

Whether or not the push will reach the ears of House Republicans remains to be seen. Only a few Republicans have districts with a strong presence of Latino voters, such as Denham.

Denham shrugged off the suggestion Monday that he is breaking ranks from the rest of the House GOP.

“This is to focus the House on getting real reform done this year,” Denham said of his co-sponsorship. Whether one bill or many, “my focus is to make sure we have a solution this year.”

By CNN’s Bryan Koenig and Deena Zaru

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