WASHINGTON -- Rep. David Valadao on Wednesday became the second California Republican to join Democrats on a broad immigration bill, increasing pressure on GOP leadership to schedule a vote on a measure that would provide a path to citizenship for millions of immigrants in the country illegally.
"Immigration reform in the House cannot wait," the freshman lawmaker said in a statement.
Valadao follows Rep. Jeff Denham, another Central Valley Republican with a heavily Latino district that relies on immigrants to pick crops, in signing on to the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act. The measure is similar to a Senate bill passed in June.
Valadao said he was eager to demonstrate to the GOP leadership "broad support within the party to address immigration reform in the House by the end of the year."
As they had when Denham announced his support last weekend, immigration proponents praised Valadao.
“Another day, another crack in the dam blocking immigration reform,’’ said Frank Sharry, the head of America's Voice, an immigration reform advocacy group.
"We are thrilled," added Angelica Salas, executive director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles. "It shows there are Republicans in the House who are serious about moving immigration reform forward.
"The ball is on Speaker [John A.] Boehner’s court," she added.
Valadao and Denham have been joined by only one other Republican -- Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida -- in signing on to the bill, now with 189 cosponsors. The bill’s chief sponsor, Rep. Joe Garcia (D-Fla.), welcomed Valadao’s support.
Some California Republicans in Congress have called an overhaul of immigration laws important to the state's economy and the Republican Party's future. But some others oppose what they consider "amnesty" for lawbreakers, underscoring the difficulty of moving comprehensive immigration legislation through the GOP-controlled House.
Boehner (R-Ohio) has rejected bringing the Senate bill up for a vote in the House, favoring a "step-by-step approach that gives Americans confidence that reform is done the right way."
Valadao, Denham and Rep. Devin Nunes of Tulare -- all with large Latino populations in their districts -- broke this year from the majority of Republicans to oppose an effort to cut off funding for an Obama administration program that halted deportation of young immigrants who are in high school or college or have served in the military.