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Denham is 1st GOPer to back immigration bill

By Josh Richman
Monday, October 28th, 2013 at 3:28 pm in 2014 primary, Immigration, Jeff Denham, U.S. House.

A Central Valley congressman is the nation’s first Republican House member to say he’ll support House Democrats’ comprehensive immigration reform bill, earning him praise from advocacy groups and depriving his Democratic challenger of a key talking point.

Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Modesto, announced he’ll cosponsor H.R. 15 on Sunday on Univision’s political talk show “Al Punto,” and later issued a statement.

Jeff Denham“We can’t afford any more delays,” he said. “We are a nation of immigrants, but today, our broken system has failed to secure the border, enforce our current laws and help us to attract the best and brightest who want to come and contribute to the greatness of America.

“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,” Denham continued. “This is a common-sense solution to our broken system. I also support a faster pathway for the children who were brought here by their parents through no fault of their own, who have been raised in America and educated in our schools and have no other country to call home.”

Denham also noted the bill “includes language that 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.” And he said his ENLIST Act, H.R. 2377, which allows a path to citizenship through military service, will be incorporated into H.R. 15.

The move has earned Denham plaudits from groups including the National Council of La Raza (“a bold message that immigration reform is not a partisan issue”); the National Immigration Law Center (“doing what’s best for his district, California, and our country”); and America’s Voice (“a major crack in the dam that has been blocking reform”).

Activists from immigration advocacy groups in his district rallied outside Denham’s Modesto district office this morning to show their appreciation, and Denham and the bill’s author, Rep. Joe Garcia, D-Fla., joined immigration advocates on a conference call with reporters this afternoon.

The 10th Congressional District’s voter registration as of February – the most recent figures available – was 39.7 percent Democrat, 38.5 percent Republican and 17 percent nonpartisan. The Cook Political Report lists the seat as “likely” Republican, a designation for races that “are not considered competitive at this point, but have the potential to become engaged.”

And the district is 41.2 percent Latino, according to the U.S. Census’ 2011 American Community Survey.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee last month had worked up a web video blasting Denham for a “history of immigration extremism, support for hard-line stances that divide families and hurt businesses and workers, and his refusal to push for the bipartisan Senate solution.”

And Denham’s presumptive Democratic challenger, Michael Eggman – an almond farmer, beekeeper and younger brother of Assemblywoman Susan Eggman, D-Stockton – had expressed support for H.R. 15 earlier this month and challenged Denham to do the same.

But Eggman still has at least one potentially potent arrow in his quiver. Read more about that, after the jump…

Michael EggmanEggman held a rally Friday in Modesto blasting Denham for being one of seven California House Republicans who voted Oct. 16 against the deal to end the government shutdown and raise the debt ceiling limit just hours before the nation risked defaulting on its debt.

“My priority is finding a long-term plan to end our out-of-control spending, which has left each man, woman and child in our country on the hook for over $50,000 of debt as we reach our $17 trillion debt limit,” Denahm had said after casting his vote that evening. “The American people deserve long-term solutions to stop the spending, stop running up the debt and give real certainty to families across the country and the financial markets so we can get back on a path to economic success and job growth.”

The vote got him in trouble with his district’s biggest newspaper, which said it “clearly aligned him with extremists rather than what was in the best interest of his California constituents and the country,” and (predictably) offered a new talking point for liberal groups.

“Apparently a $24 billion hole blown in the economy under the Tea Party shutdown wasn’t enough damage done for Congressman Denham,” Americans United for Change spokesman Jeremy Funk said earlier this month. “Denham not only wanted to keep the government closed and see the GDP shrink even more, he wanted to take the economic sabotage to the next level by threatening the full faith and credit of the United States. Denham has clearly pledged total allegiance to the Tea Party economic arsonists in Congress, the consequences for the nation and his constituents be damned.”

Denham last week reported to the Federal Election Commission that his campaign raised about $268,000 and spent about $55,000 in the third quarter of this year, leaving about $1.13 million cash on hand and about $3,800 in outstanding debts as of Sept. 30. Eggman in the same period reported raising about $79,000 and spending about $42,000, leaving him with $147,000 cash on hand and $5,400 in outstanding debts as of Sept. 30.

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