Case For Undocumented Immigrants Serving In Military

| by Mark Jones
A group of soldiers enlists in the U.S. Army at a public ceremony in California. A group of soldiers enlists in the U.S. Army at a public ceremony in California.

Undocumented immigrants should have the right to serve in the United States military.

Years ago, only a very select group of undocumented individuals were allowed to serve in the U.S. military.  These individuals had to possess very specific medical skills or the ability to speak specific languages in order to aid in the protection of America.

In 2014, the President Barack Obama and his administration began the Military Accessions in the National Interest program, allowing individuals approved by the Deferred Action for Child Arrivals program to join the military, as well.  Immigrants approved by the DACA program must have entered the United States with their parents before the age of 16.

Under the Obama administration’s MANVI program, more DACA-approved immigrants were able to use the military as a means to gain citizenship.  Seeing this as a negative aspect of the program, members of the GOP are actively trying to reverse this aspect of the program.

On July 11, Republican House Representatives proposed a bill called the Military Amnesty Prevention Act. If passed, DACA immigrants would not be able to use military service as “backdoor amnesty,” as Arizona Rep. Paul Goser not-so-lightly-stated in an official release earlier this summer.

Clearly, the debate over undocumented immigrants’ ability to enlist or not stems from larger political agendas regarding immigration reform.  At its heart, however, the question is simple: Should the U.S. military allow undocumented immigrants to serve?

Vice news reporter John Dyer says, “Foreigners have fought in American military since the Frenchman Lafayette and the Polish engineer Thaddeus Kosciuszko helped George Washington win the Revolutionary War.”

The United States came together because of immigrant effort. Immigrant participation in the United States military is ingrained in this country’s history.

Of course, times are different than they were in the 18th century. The Department of Homeland Security reports that since 9/11, drastic changes have been made to increase border control and security in America. 

These changes also have made the act of acquiring U.S. citizenship more difficult.

Today, the fear exists that an undocumented immigrant could be playing for the other side, secretly, and pose a threat to national security.

In reality, however, that individual betraying the United States could be anyone. He or she could be documented or undocumented. Or, more likely, he or she may not have a master plan to commit treason after coming to the United States as a small child.

If an undocumented immigrant's desire is to serve and protect a country that he or she one day hopes to call home, enlisting should be an option.

Ironically, the politicians advocating for the Military Amnesty Prevention Act are the same ones claiming that undocumented immigrants are stealing American jobs.  Active military service is not exactly the most sought-after career in the United States.  If undocumented immigrants willingly volunteer to fill these positions rather than other, more desirable jobs, why are conservative politicians not pleased?

Even if motivated by an ultimate goal of gaining citizenship, the desire to serve in the military is admirable.  It is even more admirable for an individual who cannot yet claim the full benefits of being a citizen of the country for which he or she is fighting.

The GOP is insensitive and hypocritical to propose a bill reversing steps forward made by the Obama administration.  Undocumented immigrants should have the right to serve in the U.S. military if they so desire.

Click here for the opposing view on this topic.

Sources: The HillUSA Today, Vice, Gosar, Department of Homeland Security / Photo credit: U.S. Army Corps of Engineering/Flickr

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