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SAN JOSE, California — If one Republican congressman from California had his way, immigration reform could soon become law, even if the final legislation is opposed by most of his GOP colleagues.
ThinkProgress interviewed Rep. Jeff Denham (R-CA) on Thursday afternoon about the prospects for immigration reform in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives. Denham recently garnered headlines for announcing he supports a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants currently in the country.
However, the prospects for immigration reform, which has already passed the Senate, remain murky in the House. A majority of Republican congressmen oppose a pathway to citizenship, so if it is to pass, Boehner would need to bring it to a vote in defiance of the majority of his caucus (known as breaking the Hastert Rule).
We asked Denham whether he’d like to see Boehner hold a vote on a pathway to citizenship even if most Republicans oppose it. He said he would. “I believe that we’ve got to bring every issue to the floor so we have a full debate on a top-to-bottom approach,” Denham said, before proceeding to explain why passing a pathway to citizenship is important in the first place.
KEYES: Would you like to see Speaker Boehner bring a pathway to citizenship vote to the floor, even if a majority of Republicans don’t ultimately support it?
DENHAM: I believe that we’ve got to bring every issue to the floor so we have a full debate on a top-to-bottom approach. Everything from making the border is secure to internal security, as well as addressing those that have over-stayed visas and our DREAMers. I want to make sure that we’re addressing all aspects and having a full debate in front of the American people.
Denham, whose wife is a first-generation Mexican-American, had until recently been considered an opponent of reform. As a state senator, Denham voted against a bill allowing in-state tuition for undocumented youth going to college and also said he “applauded” Arizona’s anti-immigrant SB 1070 law.
However, following redistricting after the 2010 census, his new district is not only middle-of-the-road politically, it also is more than 40 percent Latino. A recent Public Policy Polling (PPP) survey of the district found that 44 percent of voters said they would be less likely to support Denham if he opposes immigration reform, compared to just 24 percent who would be more likely to support him.
If immigration reform with a pathway to citizenship is to become a reality, not only will enough congressmen like Denham and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) have to support the bill, but they will also have to convince Boehner to allow it to come to a vote.