By Debbie Gregory.
Originally introduced to Congress on June 14, 2013, the ENLIST Act proposes that aliens unlawfully present in the United States would be permitted to enlist in the armed forces. Upon completion of service and honorably discharged, individuals would be considered legal permanent residents and then be eligible to apply for citizenship.
The bill was proposed by Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Calif.). In 2013, the criteria would require that the individual would have been brought to the United States as a youth, younger than 15, and had been continually present in the U.S. since December, 2011. Additionally, the criteria requires the individual to meet the enlistment requirements, such as the ability to speak English, pass a background test, and be a high school graduate.
The proposal was originally faced with mixed support. It was suggested that it be debated as a stand-alone measure, and ultimately the House GOP leaders would not grant a vote on the House floor. Denham recently reintroduced the proposal both as a separate bill and an amendment to the annual national defense authorization. He is one of few Republicans who has endorsed comprehensive immigration reform; feeling strongly about the issue, his constituents are comprised of a large Hispanic population. In bringing attention to the bill once more, he articulated that these individuals have embraced this nation, and feel impassioned to defend it as their own.
“As a matter of military readiness and national defense, if the Department of Defense changes its criteria, that is something that I would welcome,” Denham said at a recent news conference. His comments were delivered with a group of young, undocumented immigrants at his side who said they wanted to serve in the armed forces.
While still faced with considerable criticism, Denham is hopeful that the ENLIST Act will secure a vote on the House floor sometime this year.
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Military Connection: Enlist Act Reintroduced: By Debbie Gregory