Conservatives threaten defense bill over immigration proposal

The landscape of comprehensive immigration reform in the U.S. continues to grow more and more volatile as we inch nearer to the 2016 presidential election. Though we have not yet hit the primaries, tensions are flaring over the issue and it is expected to be one of the most divisive topics as candidates hit the campaign trail. The explosive nature of the topic is currently being evidenced by national lawmakers, as language over a defense bill has drawn threats and dissent from a number of high-profile conservatives. According to U.S. News & World Report, more than 20 conservative lawmakers are threatening to oppose a defense policy bill if its language about immigration isn’t changed.

The bill
Multiple sources have reported that the issue the conservatives are taking with the bill has little to do with the defense policy that it outlines. Rather, their protests are stemming from a single non-binding clause buried within the bill itself. According to The Hill, the House Rules Committee recently approved the annual defense policy bill, a document that provides a high-level overview of upcoming changes and practices within the American military for the upcoming year. Within that bill this year was a clause which, simply put, would allow for undocumented immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as young children to serve in the military once they reached the age of 18 and assuming they met the usual requirements.

The objections
The dissenting party is comprised of 25 conservative lawmakers, none more high-profile than Mo Brooks, a Republican congressman from Alabama, who is leading the group. In short, the group of conservative representatives feels that the amendment, which was initially proposed to the bill by Rep. Ruben Gallego, D-Ariz., contradicts prior votes which have labeled President Barack Obama’s executive actions unconstitutional. Largely, these individuals are at odds with the president’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals plan, or DACA, which allows work permits to be granted to childhood arrival immigrants. Led by Brooks, these individuals have authored a letter to Pete Sessions, the Rules Committee Chairman, insinuating that they will block passage of the bill if this clause is not removed.

It’s worth noting that in the bill at hand, all that is proposed is that the Secretary of the Defense Department consider allowing immigrants to join the armed forces. An explicit policy change is never mandated.

“An explicit policy change is never mandated in the bill.”

Nonetheless, Brooks and his group of conservatives are showing no signs of slowing down, labeling the proposed legislation unconstitutional. In their letter, which was reported on by The Hill, that group summated this viewpoint clearly:

“[The clause is not aligned with the Chamber’s] previous position and is a severe threat to passage. Especially in this time of increased terrorism, our national security should not be threatened by allowing such controversial language on a program we have rejected three times as unconstitutional,” the letter read.