A top Pentagon chief says the DREAM Act would be a great way to expand the pool of potential recruits for the country's armed forces.

Clifford Stanley, the Undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, said passage of the controversial measure would give hundreds of thousands of young undocumented immigrants the chance to join the military – and obtain the documents needed for citizenship.

"This is not an American-versus-illegal-alien issue," he said. "We're looking at the highest standards."

The DREAM Act faces challenges in Congress, where most Republicans and a handful of Democrats regard it as backdoor amnesty for lawbreakers. The measure would grant citizenship to undocumented students brought to the country before the age of 16 if they join the military or attend college.

"They are students with talent who want to continue their education and want to serve their country," said White House Director of Intergovernmental Affairs Cecilia Muñoz during a teleconference call with reporters

The DREAM Act has become a bargaining chip in the political aftermath of President Obama proposing a two-year extension to the Bush tax cuts.

A vote on the DREAM Act is expected this week.

"We're expecting a vote quite likely to be [Wednesday]," Muñoz said.

She added that there is a "tremendous amount of work going on" to "make sure this is a positive vote."

The Associated Press and EFE contributed to the story.

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