Friday's developments seemed to all but rule out anything happening on the issue this year in the House, if even Denham's limited measure could not advance. Despite a wide coalition of business, labor, religious groups, farmers and others pushing for an immigration overhaul, many individual Republican House members who represent largely white districts have been unmoved.
Asked Friday if Boehner disagreed with Cantor's decision, Boehner's spokesman, Michael Steel, said he did not.
Denham's office had no immediate reaction to Cantor's announcement. But in an interview beforehand, Denham, who has a competitive race in his heavily Latino district in central California, said he would keep pushing his legislation regardless of what leadership did.
"I am prepared for a long-term fight on this," he said.
Denham's bill would allow immigrants who were brought to this country on or before Dec. 31, 2011, and were younger than 15 years old to become legal, permanent residents — the first step toward citizenship — through honorable service in the military.
It was co-sponsored by 50 House members, 26 Democrats and 24 Republicans, but an outspoken minority was opposed. Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Ala., had warned that "all hell will break loose" if Denham tried to promote the measure.
The Senate could still revive the issue if the Senate Armed Services Committee includes the ENLIST Act in its own version of the defense policy bill, something Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., the panel chairman, has indicated was possible.