The House of Representatives last week voted to remove a measure from the National Defense Authorization Act that asked the Secretary of Defense to review policies on whether certain undocumented young people, often called “Dreamers,” can join the military if they have work authorization. During the last five months, the Pentagon has enlisted 81 of these “Dreamers,” individuals who arrived in the U.S. as children and qualify for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Rep. Ruben Gallego of Arizona inserted the provision into the 2016 defense policy bill with the hope that the Secretary of Defense would consider qualified illegal immigrants as “vital to the national interest.”
Despite this outcome, these 81 DACA participants could still be recruited into a Pentagon program called the Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest Program (MAVNI). This program was created for legal immigrants whose medical training or critical language skills have been deemed vital to the national security. Essentially, MAVNI is a recruiting program that allows legal non-citizens with in-demand skills to join the Army in exchange for expedited U.S. citizenship. Specifically, individuals who join the Army through this program can move from non-immigrant status or asylee/refugee/Temporary Protected Status (TPS) directly to citizenship. Program participants will become naturalized U.S. citizens by the time they graduate from 10 weeks of Basic Combat Training or accept a commission as Army officers.
While these 81 MAVNI enlistees have signed enlistment contracts, they are not yet officially members of the Army. An Army spokesperson has stated that all enlistees must complete a “very thorough” background check. Further, enlistees cannot begin basic training until that process is complete.
For more information on DACA or USCIS services reserved for members of our military, please schedule a consultation with one of the attorneys at Berardi Immigration Law today!