As President Obama’s executive orders on U.S. immigration policy continue to be debated, one perhaps lesser-known aspect of the change in the law has resulted in 46 undocumented immigrants enlisting in the military. This puts them on the path to citizenship, and the Army wants more such recruits.
According to The Hill, the 46 new members of the Army are so-called “Dreamers,” people who illegally immigrated to the U.S. as children. As part of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, they are now able to take advantage of an Army program called Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest. That program seeks immigrants with medical training or ability to speak certain languages, but until recently was limited to legal immigrants only. In exchange, participants get on a fast track to citizenship.
This year, the Army expanded that program to allow up to 3,000 enlistees, twice the previous limit. Plus, the Defense Department issued an order in 2014 to include undocumented immigrants.
The 46 undocumented immigrant recruits represents a modest start. Congress is set to debate a defense policy bill for 2016. An amendment contained in the bill would automatically consider DACA qualifiers as “vital” to national security, which would make it easier for them to enlist.
Enlisting in the military is one possible avenue to citizenship for some resident aliens, and now undocumented immigrants as well. For legal immigrants, other pathways may exist, should they wish to become U.S. citizens and enjoy the benefits of American citizenship.