Hundreds of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients currently serve in the military, but if Congress is unable to pass a clean DREAM Act soon, those same patriotic Americans will be vulnerable to deportation. Robert Gates, College of William & Mary chancellor and former secretary of defense for Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama:
More than 800 so-called Dreamers who received temporary authorization to stay and work in the United States under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, recently revoked by President Trump, are now serving in the armed forces. They are able to serve because of a program I authorized in 2008 aimed at recruiting immigrants with medical, foreign language or other specialized skills. The program was extended when we found that these recruits had lower attrition rates than other recruits and, in particular, contributed invaluable language skills to Special Operations units. More than 350 additional DACA recipients have signed contracts with the Army and are awaiting basic training. If Congress fails to act, these recruits’ permits will expire. They will not be eligible to serve and will instead be at risk of deportation.
Gates writes that more than 45,000 immigrants served under him during his tenure. One of the first Americans to die in battle in Iraq was Lance Cpl. Jose Gutierrez, who was undocumented during a period of his short life. Gutierrez, an orphan who came to the U.S. from Guatemala without permission when he was 22, was posthumously awarded citizenship.
Today, 800 DACA recipients are willing to risk their lives for this nation, and hundreds of thousands more are American in every single way but on a piece of paper the DREAM Act could afford them. “In light of the service and sacrifice of those immigrants—legal or not—it is also the right thing to do,” Gates writes. “All of those undocumented immigrants, through their willingness to shed blood to protect the rest of us, have earned the right to call themselves ‘American citizen.’ Let us honor them this Veterans Day. But let’s also give them a pathway to citizenship. Our military will be the better for it. So will the country.”
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