Immigration: California Republican Rep. Denham backs overhaul bill

Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Turlock), right, testifies on Capitol Hill in July. He has announced his support for a broad immigration overhaul bill.

Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Turlock), right, testifies on Capitol Hill in July. He has announced his support for a broad immigration overhaul bill.

(Evan Vucci / Associated Press)

WASHINGTON — California Rep. Jeff Denham is the first House Republican to join Democrats in co-sponsoring a broad immigration overhaul bill that would provide a path to citizenship for millions of immigrants in the country illegally.

“We can’t afford any more delays,” the Central Valley lawmaker said in a statement Sunday. “I support an earned path to citizenship to allow those who want to become citizens to demonstrate a commitment to our country, learn English, pay fines and back taxes and pass background checks.”

The Republican from Turlock called the legislation “a common-sense solution to our broken system.”


Denham signed onto a bill House Democrats introduced this month, the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act. It mostly parallels the bill passed by the Senate in June.

But prospects for House action before the end of the year are uncertain. House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) has pledged not to bring up immigration legislation for a vote unless it is backed by a majority of his fellow Republicans, and he has no plans to bring the Senate bill up for consideration. House Republicans have favored a “step-by-step approach” to overhaul parts of the immigration system.

Frank Sharry, the head of America’s Voice, an immigration reform advocacy group, called Denham’s support for the broad bill a “major crack in the dam that has been blocking reform.”

Denham, now in his second term, represents a 40% Latino district that relies on immigrants to pick crops. He has been targeted by Democrats for next year’s election; President Obama won the district last year.

On Sunday, Denham said the bill he supports “makes securing the border a requirement, not a goal, and puts measurable benchmarks in place to be verified by independent sources to ensure that our border is secure.”

Appearing on “Al Punto,” a Univision program on politics, Denham said he expects other Republicans to join him, and the more who do, the better the bill’s chances.


He pledged to work to “make sure that the entire country focuses on this, and that we actually get more Republicans that are willing to take a stand and get out there. Yes, it’s risky. We will get hit from the left and the right, and there will be a lot of different media that portrays us in different ways in our districts. But what is right for the American people and our economy should be the focus on the entire Congress.”

This year, Denham was one of six House Republicans who opposed an effort to cut off funding for an Obama administration program that halted deportation of young immigrants who are in high school or college or have served in the military. He is the sponsor of legislation that would allow people in the country illegally to gain legal status through U.S. military service.


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