By Debbie Gregory.
President Trump’s decision to end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) could have a profound impact on the U.S. military.
At a time when the military is struggling to meet recruiting goals, experts say foreign recruits have skills important to the military’s mission.
The Pentagon says about 900 people currently in uniform, or who have signed up to serve, are recipients of work authorization through DACA. The so-called “dreamers” whose DACA protection expires before they complete basic training will have their service contract nullified, and they could be subject to deportation proceedings.
For now, the Pentagon is working closely with the Department of Homeland Security to find out what this policy change will mean for DACA recipients currently in the military.
Many of these dreamers no longer speak their native tongues, and many of them no longer have familial ties in their countries of origin.
Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest (MAVNI), an initiative designed to exchange fast-tracked citizenship for crucial medical and language skills among foreign-born recruits, has rotated 10,400 troops into the military since 2009.
Additionally, adversarial nations like China or Russia could learn any potential DACA deportees attempted to enlist in the U.S. military, leaving them exposed to the possibility of harsh treatment or interrogation. Some foreign-born recruits have already sought asylum to avoid deportation, including at least one Iraqi national who fled to Canada to prevent a confrontation with Islamic State militants.
“By definition, DACA recipients are a prescreened pool of people of a higher quality than the average recruit,” said Margaret Stock, a retired Army officer and immigration lawyer who led MAVNI’s design and implementation. “They have no criminal background and graduated from high school. And they’re highly motivated to join the military because it’s their only option to stay in the country.”