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Thursday, December 8, 2016

“Gentlemen, start your engines.” That message, played repeatedly in a commercial beamed on the Jumbotron at this year’s Indianapolis 500, had nothing to do with race cars. A coalition of faith, business, and law enforcement leaders used the iconic event to launch their call for House Republicans to get moving on immigration reform.

“It’s time for effective, common-sense, and accountable solutions that respect and enhance the rule of law,” says Mark Curran, a Lake County, Illinois sheriff in the commercial.

Unfortunately, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor can’t shift gears. The Virginia Republican won’t allow the most incremental of immigration bills, known as the ENLIST Act, to go forward.

This bill would let immigrants who were brought to the United States illegally as children to enlist in the military. If they serve and are honorably discharged, they would then be eligible for a green card, which would put them on a path to citizenship.

These are young people who didn’t choose to come here. Their parents brought them. An opportunity to serve in the military would give them a chance to demonstrate their loyalty to the United States. In the long run, the ENLIST Act would allow these folks to become full, productive members of society.

Naturally, the ENLIST Act has a broad support base. Republican Jeff Denham of California introduced the measure, which 26 Democrats and 24 Republicans co-sponsored.

Conservative commentator Linda Chavez called the ENLIST Act “the right — and principled — thing to do,” in her syndicated column.

When asked about the ENLIST Act, Cantor suggested that he supported it. “If you’ve got a kid that was brought here by their parents — unbeknownst to the child — and that they’ve grown up in this country and not known any other, and they want to serve in our military, they ought to be allowed to do that and then have the ability to become a citizen after that kind of service,” he told Politico.

But actions speak louder than words. Cantor blocked the ENLIST Act from being included in a military authorization bill, and it doesn’t look likely that it will come up for a vote anytime soon.

Meanwhile, the public continues to support an overhaul of our broken immigration system. Even Fox News pollsters find that most Americans support reform, including majorities of Republican voters. In fact, a May poll conducted by conservative advocacy groups found that Tea Party Republican voters favor immigration reform. The Tea Party Express and Americans for Prosperity report that over 70 percent of Tea Party-aligned voters want Congress to pass immigration legislation this year.

It seems like everyone is on board. Why is this issue going nowhere?

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