White House Delays Plan to Enlist Young Immigrants

Posted by Matthew Green | Jun 26, 2014 | 0 Comments

Recently, a Pentagon plan that would allow for a small group of young immigrants to enlist in the military under certain circumstances has been delayed by the White House. This group of immigrants involves those who “grew up in the United States without legal status.”

According to White House officials, the stalling will help to avoid any potential conflict that may arise with House Republicans who are considering moving on immigration reform legislation. According to the Pentagon plan, there would be a very limited pathway to citizenship for those who were eligible to enlist.

Defense Secretary, Chuck Hagel, penned a letter to senators that explained how he had “taken initial action to allow for the enlistment” of these young immigrants, who are known as DREAMers. However, the White House stepped in and asked Hagel to stop for now and not take any additional steps in the policy until after August of this year. At this point, Congress's summer session will have ended.

Even President Obama has publicly stated that he would not take any further executive action with regards to immigration for the next two months, with the hopes that Republicans would take this time to decide on “legislation that could grant legal status” to immigrants who are in the United States without documentation.

Hagel went on to receive criticism from a handful of senators, including Richard Durbin (Illinois). Durbin is considered to be the second-highest-ranking Democrat currently in the Senate and is a leader in pushing for legislation that would “give citizenship to undocumented youths, which is known as the Dream Act.” Durbin had asked Hagel to “allow enlistment of a much broader group of those youths.”

Under the most recent Pentagon policy, in order to be eligible, these young immigrants must have had deportation deferrals under a program Obama started in 2012, known as DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals). Hagel stated that those immigrants would be permitted to “apply to enlist under a separate Defense Department program for certain temporary immigrants who have special medical or language skills.”

According to immigrant leaders and legal professionals, the new Pentagon policy would “provide at best only a very narrow path to citizenship, with perhaps no more than a handful of youths qualifying.” At this point, in excess of 550,000 young immigrants have received deportation deferrals.

The Pentagon program allows for immigrant recruits to receive an expedited path to naturalization. This can be accomplished in as little as three months. In most cases, “immigrants who are not legal permanent residents with green cards cannot enlist.”

Another issue plaguing the current program that is far from unique is the issue of its set quota. The annual quota is only 1,500 and there are already a number of people on waiting lists. Furthermore, there is only a small number of young immigrants who possess the “medical skills or speak the languages required by the program.”

What do you think about the current program and its status? What should be done?

About the Author

Matthew Green

Managing Attorney. The Law Offices of Matthew H. Green focuses on the aggressive defense of immigrants. A native of Arizona, Mr. Green understands the difficulties that immigrants and families of immigrants face when a loved one is charged with a crime. He knows how frightening it can be for some...

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