WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday went on record as being against any action by the Pentagon toward formally allowing undocumented immigrants who arrived in the United States as children to serve in the U.S. armed forces.
By a vote of 221 to 202, the Republican-controlled House killed language that had been added into an annual defense budget bill. The language stated that the U.S. defense secretary should review whether allowing such undocumented residents was in the national interest and thus make them eligible to enlist as soldiers.
In 2012, President Barack Obama issued an executive order allowing certain undocumented immigrants who entered the United States before their 16th birthday to be temporarily exempt from deportation. Many of them had no choice but to enter the United States because they crossed the border with their undocumented parents.
"For many, America is the only country they have ever known. It is the country they love and call home. Many want nothing more than to serve the United States in uniform," said Democratic Representative Ruben Gallego, who pushed for the Pentagon review.
Republican Representative Mo Brooks of Alabama argued, "This Congress should support and represent Americans by voting to stop military service opportunities from being taken from struggling American families in order to give them to illegal aliens."
U.S. immigration policy and the failure of Congress to modernize its outdated laws are certain to be debated throughout the 2016 presidential campaigns that are getting underway.
This would not be the first time the Pentagon has been in the middle of a national debate over controversial social issues.
In past years, the U.S. military has been a crucible for racial integration, the role of women in the workforce and gay rights.
Reporting By Richard Cowan