Democratic Congressman Ruben Gallego is pushing for the government to allow young people who were brought to the country illegally as children to serve in the military.
Gallego plans to do this by offering an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act encouraging the Department of Defense to allow people to serve if they've been granted deportation relief under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
Currently, those immigrants with the DACA relief are only allowed to serve if they fit within the parameters of something called the Military Accessions Vital to National Interest, which is for people willing to serve in the military who have an extraordinarily in-need skill, like the ability to speak Arabic. A huge majority of "dreamers" don't fit into this program, and thus aren't able to serve.
Gallego offered the amendment to the bill yesterday, telling the story of a Phoenix man named Jose who wants to join the Navy, but can't due to his immigration status.
"Years later, Jose still hasn't given up," Gallego explained. "'I want to serve my country,' he says, 'to show how grateful I am for all it has provided me.'"
Gallego's amendment wouldn't force the Department of Defense to take in these "dreamers," but would encourage the department to do so.
"By statute, the Secretary [of Defense] can authorize the enlistment of non-citizens when it is 'vital to the national interest,'" Gallego explained. "And enabling the best and brightest in our nation to serve in uniform, including dreamers, is clearly 'vital to the national interest.'"
Gallego, an Iraq War veteran, said he "know[s] that on the battlefield what matters isn't whether you have the right papers, it's whether you have the right skills and the right character."
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