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Department of Defense Will Allow Undocumented Immigrants to Serve in the US Military

march.jpgThe Department of Defense announced last week that it will allow a relatively small number of undocumented immigrants to serve in the US military. The new policy is the first of its kind in several decades and expands on a current program that allows military officials to recruit foreign nationals that possess specific skills that are in high demand such as certain health care skills and foreign language capabilities. Immigrants who came to the United States with their parents before their 16th birthday and who do not have proper documentation will be allowed an opportunity to join the program known as MAVNI, an acronym for the Military Accessions in the National Interest.

Service and Citizenship Under MAVNI and DACA

There has been some speculation among political officials since the announcement was made that the new policy may be an initial step by the federal government toward creating new ways for immigrants to become citizens. President Obama has expressed his displeasure with Congress over its lack of immigration policy reform and has made promises to use his executive powers to make changes to how those policies are implemented.

According to some estimates, there are between 1.2 million and 2.1 children and teenagers currently living in the United States illegally and who meet the criteria for either the MAVNI program or the Deferred Action for Child Arrivals (DACA) which allows, with certain restrictions which differ from MAVNI, children under the age of 16 to live in the country with their relatives without documentation for a limited period of time.

Most Qualifying Immigrants Will Be Non-Latino

Currently the Department of Defense is allowed to recruit no more than 1,500 immigrants with DACA status but some of those may also end up being eligible under the MAVNI requirements as well and may include people who are in the country with either tourist or student visas. Interestingly, students who are recruited into the MAVNI program will more than likely not be those coming from Mexico or Central American countries but rather those who have language skills that would be beneficial to the DoD’s national security efforts such as people who speak Chinese, Persian, or Arabic.

One of the problems with that, however, is that it is difficult to tell with any degree of accuracy how many immigrants from countries that speak those languages actually are proficient enough in those languages to be of service to the military. These are largely recruits who have been living in the US for most or all of their young lives and as such, despite being around family members who likely speak their native tongue, they may not be as adept at the languages as the military would need them to be.

Upon serving in the United States military, foreign nationals become eligible to have their citizenship expedited. Over the last 13 years, there have been more than 90,000 servicemen and women in the US military who were born somewhere other than the United States and who were granted citizenship during their service time.

If you or someone you know is in need of legal counsel regarding an immigration issue, please contact the immigration attorney at the Lyttle Law Firm in Austin, Texas or call their offices at 512-215-5225.