WASHINGTON, May 19 (UPI) -- Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin said he's "confident" young immigrants living in the U.S. without proper documentation will soon be able to serve in the military.
The Democrat, who chairs the Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, urged passage of comprehensive immigration reform in the House that would match the DREAM Act legislation that passed last year in the Senate.
Durbin also denounced House Majority Leader Eric Candor, R-Va.'s decision to prevent a vote on the ENLIST Act, sponsored by Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Calif., that would amend the defense budget bill to provide green cards to immigrants who served in the military.
"Throughout our history, immigrants have proudly served in the United States Armed Forces, fighting -- and dying -- alongside native-born Americans in defense of their adopted country," he said at a subcommittee hearing in Chicago Monday.
Durbin said another generation of immigrants are eager to give back to their adopted country, many of whom qualified for temporary legal status under the Deferred Action of Childhood Arrivals, an executive order from President Obama that takes some action that would be codified under the DREAM Act to prevent the deportations of people who were brought illegally into the U.S. as young children.
Calling on House Speaker John Boehner to bring comprehensive immigration reform up for a vote in the House, Durbin said he was "confident" it would pass.
But if House leadership were to continue to refuse, he said, the Defense Department should exercise its legal authority to enlist DREAMers in the military as "vital to the national interest" because it "would make the Armed Forces more diverse and inclusive, and it would allow the Armed Forces to access a well-qualified, educated, homegrown talent pool."
"The question is this: Will America be a stronger country if we deport our Dreamers to countries they barely remember or if we allow them to contribute more fully to the country they love?" Durbin said. "The answer is clear. I am confident that Dreamers will soon have the chance to serve honorably in the Armed Forces."