U.S. presidents have an awful habit of using the military as a testbed for policies that should be hashed out in open society.
The most famous example was Bill Clinton's ugly and insulting "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy. Instead of making a forceful case for allowing gays and lesbians to serve in the military, Clinton punted the problem to future presidents and left the military to figure out how to implement an absurd, discriminatory and impractical policy.
More recently, President Barack Obama has tried to turn the military into a testbed for his plan to give illegal immigrants a "path to citizenship."
In 2014, Obama created a new Department of Defense policy that would allow illegal immigrants to serve in the U.S. military under Military Accessions in the National Interest, or MAVNI. The program was originally meant to allow the military to recruit noncitizens who had "especially valued" or "highly specialized" skills -- for example, someone in the U.S. on a student visa might qualify if he or she is fluent in Arabic.
Obama, frustrated that he couldn't get congress to play ball on his amnesty plans, opened MAVNI to "undocumented immigrants."
“In a quest to cement President Obama’s lawless immigration agenda, his administration hijacked a military pilot program and turned it into another one of the president’s amnesty programs," Arizona Rep. Paul Gosar, a Republican, wrote in a statement on July 12.
Of course, Obama's policy change wasn't based on any real military need. It was simply a way to push his agenda, to abuse his presidential power by going around congress and circumventing the will of the American people. The law explicitly states that people in the U.S. illegally cannot serve in the military.
When Obama first introduced the policy change in 2014, defense officials were skeptical. The new Department of Defense policy opened up MAVNI recruitment to undocumented immigrants who had arrived in the U.S. before they were 16 years old.
"We're just not sure how many within that existing population of DACA would have the linguistic skills to qualify," one unnamed defense official told USA Today. "These are kids who entered the country at a fairly young age and have basically grown up in the United States, so the limit of their language talents would probably be the language that they received at home."
The undocumented recruits Obama wants to court through MAVNI are entirely separate from the legal, law-abiding immigrants who enlist or are commissioned and have their citizenship applications fast-tracked as gratitude for their service.
Allowing immigrants in the U.S. illegally to join the military presents a new class of headaches and concerns. By definition, a recruit cannot be "undocumented" and join the military. The military needs to know who these people are. Real names, real histories, Social Security numbers, credit reports, psychological evaluations, school test scores, criminal histories.
Then there's the matter of security clearances -- under the Department of Defense's own rules, all service members must be eligible for at least secret clearance. How does the government conduct background checks on recruits without documented histories or records saying they are who they claim to be? Should a foreign national in the U.S. illegally be given a security clearance? Should an illegal immigrant be permitted to handle classified and sensitive information?
How does the military know a recruit doesn't have a criminal history when that recruit, thanks to being undocumented, could change names and Social Security numbers like people change clothes? How does the military pull school test scores and credit reports for people with no official identities? These aren't extra layers of scrutiny for MAVNI recruits, they're part of standard screening procedures for every service member.
As the administration continues to push its executive orders and policy changes in the waning months of Obama's presidency, a group of Republican lawmakers has introduced legislation that would affirm a ban on illegal immigrants serving in the military.
Dubbed the Military Amnesty Prevention Act, the bill would mercifully prevent the brass from having to deal with the above-mentioned concerns and issues.
But most of all, it would prevent another president from using the U.S. military as a societal Petri dish. With an ongoing VA scandal over appallingly substandard care for veterans, and an estimated 22 military veterans committing suicide each day, the Department of Defense has more important matters to address than turning the military into a test lab for a president's misguided amnesty policies.