Certain undocumented young immigrants known as DREAMers will be allowed to enlist in the military, but only in very limited circumstances, the Defense Department announced Thursday.
DREAMers will be eligible for enlistment in the Armed Forces if they meet specific medical or language skill requirements as part of the Accessions Vital to National Interest (MAVNI) program, states a memo released Thursday by Jessica Wright, under secretary of defense for personnel and readiness.
However, it is estimated that only a small number of DREAMers will be able to take part in the MAVNI program, which has a cap of 1,500 enlistees per year.
In 2012, Obama set up the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which grants a two-year protection against deportation for DREAMers, or immigrants who came to the United States as young children prior to June of 2007. The program lets the immigrants work in the country legally, for example, but it does not provide them with a pathway to citizenship or allow them to join the U.S. Armed Forces.
More than 580,000 DREAMers have been accepted into the DACA program, according to the office of U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Illinois), who called the Defense Department's military enlistment decision a "missed opportunity."
“These young men and women are prepared to serve our country," Durbin said in a statement. "Many have completed ROTC programs and dream of the day when they can volunteer to be part of our great military. Merely allowing DREAMers to enlist through the very limited MAVNI program does not go nearly far enough and deprives our military of access to a well-qualified, educated, homegrown talent pool. This decision falls short of what our nation needs and these young men and women are prepared to give.”
U.S. Rep. Bill Foster (D-IL,11), who helped introduce a House resolution in July calling on the Defense Department to allow DREAMers to serve in the military, said he wants to see executive action take by the Obama administration to allow enlistment opportunities for all DREAMers.
“While I am pleased that President Obama and the Department of Defense have initiated changes to allow a very limited number of DREAMers to enlist in the military, I continue to believe that we need to use executive action to allow all willing and able DREAMers to enlist,” Foster said in a statement. “There are tens of thousands of DREAMers who would be exemplary candidates for military service. At a time when military recruitment is suffering, we simply cannot deny these young people the opportunity to serve the only country they call home. I have introduced a resolution calling on the Department of Defense to allow all qualified and willing DREAMers to enlist, and I will continue to advocate for this change.”