United States Defense Secretary James Mattis assured undocumented immigrants who entered the country as children and are currently enlisted in the armed forces that they will not face deportation even after the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), the immigration program allowing them to continue staying legally in the country, expires.
Enacted as an executive order under the Obama administration, DACA protects undocumented immigrants who entered the country as minors (often called DREAMers, after a failed bill with the same provisions as DACA) from immediate deportation, treating them with “deferred action” instead.
In addition, DACA recipients can apply for a special work permit that allows them to legally work in the country, renewable every two years.
In September last year, President Donald Trump announced that he would rescind DACA, claiming that Obama had exceeded his executive authority in implementing the program. He did, however, give Congress six months to present a bipartisan deal to replace the program before it ends on March 5, 2018.
While the country’s lawmakers continue to debate on a viable substitute for DACA, Mattis assured DREAMers serving in the military that they would be protected.
“They will not be subject to any kind of deportation. We would always stand by one of our people,” Mattis told reporters at the Pentagon on Thursday, as reported by The Hill.
Mattis explained, however, that not all DACA recipients will be spared. He said that protections only apply to DREAMers who are either: engaged in active military service in the active reserves, already bound by contract with the military and are only waiting to begin training at boot camp, or veterans discharged honorably.
Mattis also notes there are conditions that would disqualify a DACA-enrolled immigrant in the military from such protections, including having been charged for committing a serious felony and being subject to a final deportation order issued by a federal judge.
Regarding the latter, Mattis says that “that would be a judicial action that obviously we obey in the court system. We don’t have veto authority over a court.”
According to Mattis, Homeland Security is aware of and approves of these protections, and he claims that he had contacted Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen earlier to confirm this.
“We have been through this in great detail before … so it’s really just a confirming call,” he assured the press.
According to Chief Pentagon Spokeswomen Dana White, there are over 900 DACA recipients who are either currently serving in the armed forces or about to begin their military training.
The Lyttle Law Firm is encouraging DREAMers in the Greater Austin Area to learn more about your rights and protections under DACA, and what your options are should DACA be terminated without a replacement law. Call our offices today to talk to Austin immigration attorney Daniella Lyttle.