Next week, Denham plans to introduce an amendment that would allow people to enlist in the armed forces as a way to become legal permanent residents, a move House Majority Leader Eric Cantor promises to block.
"There are those of us who have to do a greater job of championing and being vocal on the issue," Denham said. "My concern is that there is a very vocal minority in our conference that likes to say crazy and outlandish things that get picked up by the media."
Denham's leading Democratic opponent, almond farmer Michael Eggman, said it would be better for Democrats to control the House if voters want immigration reform. He said the GOP leadership will not bring up an overhaul bill unless it's forced to, as the failed petition would have done.
"If you don't sign the petition, you're really not committed to immigration reform," Eggman said.
Denham said he wants to work through the committee process while Valadao calls the petition a stunt.
Even if the California Republicans say they support changes to immigration law, Israel said it signals a lack of effectiveness that they can't get more Republicans to join them. Denham and Valadao counter that an immigration overhaul didn't happen even when Democrats controlled the White House and both chambers of Congress in 2008-09.
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