Does the Department of Defense Want the DACAs?

By David North, November 30, 2012

Does our military establishment want to recruit anyone from the new set of amnesty grantees, those granted short-term legal status by Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program?

Apparently not.

Given the White House's glowing description of this population of illegal aliens, those who arrived before the age of 16 and were under 31 on June 15 of this year, one might expect that the Department of Defense would look upon them as a useful addition to the pool of potential military recruits.

After all they are the right age; they obviously are interested in staying in America or they would not file for DACA (at the cost of $465 and some effort), and they are adventurous enough to have remained in the United States in illegal status for at least five years. Though in some cases their English is a little shaky, that's something the military can handle and they sound like a likely batch of future soldiers, sailors, marines, and coast guardsmen.

Further, though I regard it as red-white-and-blue frosting on the cake, the eligibility rules for acceptance into the DACA program stipulate that the (meager) educational requirement can be met by service in the military. This is just a public relations flourish, as I noted in an earlier blog, because an alien in the military is eligible for full naturalization already, which is a whole lot better than the DACA benefit — a two-year period in which you are guaranteed that you will not be deported.

Further, the military seeks to avoid recruiting illegal aliens, so only a handful of them overcame that barrier. Thus there are few now in the military who would qualify for DACA, even if it were an attractive package to them, which it is not.

But while an illegal alien can use military service to become eligible for DACA (unlikely as that path might be) it turns out that an approved DACA application does not make an alien eligible to join the military. Here's a previously illegal population the White House wants to stay in the country, but they are not only excused from, they are barred from fighting for it. Odd.

In another twist in the amnesty/military service picture, retiring (i.e., lame duck) Senators Kay Bailey Hutchinson (R-Texas) and Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) have introduced a version of the DREAM proposal that would establish a multi-step (i.e., not very generous) amnesty program; the first step would be the issuance of a temporary visa to illegal aliens, allowing them to attend school or to enlist in the military, according to a story in Politico. Such a provision would remove the anomaly that now exists in DACA.

The fact that DACA beneficiaries cannot serve in the military came to my attention yesterday when it was mentioned in passing in an item in Wednesday's New York Daily News. The article was about a very specialized DoD alien recruiting program that seeks medical professionals, such as physicians, and native speakers of languages rare in the United States (such as Cebuano, Igbo, and Moro, along with some more common ones, such as Chinese and Russian) from among long-term nonimmigrants currently legally in the United States. (The program applies to people such as foreign students or workers; green card holders are already permitted to enlist.) The program's initials are MAVNI; given its design it presumably would involve only a small number of people.

One of the reasons that the Pentagon may not want to recruit among the DACA grantees may be the overall cuts it is likely to experience in its funding, which presumably will reduce the size of the armed forces, but I am speculating and have no inside information on this matter.

I am grateful to Lt. Col. Margaret Stock (ret.), an immigration lawyer in Alaska, for calling the Daily News article to my attention.