Several members of the Illinois congressional delegation are urging the military to accept undocumented immigrants as recruits. They’d have to be kids eligible for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, meaning they were brought to this country illegally as children. “DACA allows them to stay and work in our country, but it does not offer them a path to citizenship, and it does not allow them to enlist in the military,” said U.S. Rep. Bill Foster (D-Naperville).
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Foster and U.S. Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez (D-Chicago) spoke at a hearing today (Monday) in Chicago convened by U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) on the subject of allowing those eligible for deferred action to enlist in the military. Under existing law, the Defense Department can authorize the enlistment of noncitizens and non-legal permanent residents if it is “vital to the national interest.” An immigrant who enlists during wartime is eligible for naturalization.
Jessica Wright, the acting under-secretary of defense for personnel and readiness, wants the opportunity to offer military service to these kids. “Legislation like this would assist the military and potentially our recruiting efforts and increase the pool of eligible young individuals that we can enlist,” she testified. Wright said the military enlists about 200,000 recruits each year – including non-citizens who are legal residents, and she said her experience with them is that there is no room to question their patriotism.