In an interview with Frank Gaffney on Tuesday, Rosemary Jenks, the director of government relations at the anti-immigrant group Numbers USA, said that any opening of the U.S. military to some people who came to the country illegally would be an “unbelievably dangerous” attack on the military’s “morale” and “integrity.”
“I think this president, not only is he intent on transforming America, he is intent on decimating our military in every way possible, in attacking its morale, in attacking its integrity,” she said. “It is just unbelievably dangerous to put illegal aliens inside the gates with our troops. It is unconscionable the things this president is doing to our military.”
“Well, I really think of it as a wrecking operation, and this fits the profile for sure,” Gaffney agreed.
In September, the Defense Department issued a new policy expanding to a small number of DREAMers an existing Bush-era program that allow some noncitizens with specialized skills serve in the military. USA Today explained the policy change:
The Pentagon program is capped at 1,500 recruits per year. Officials say it's unclear how many of those might be unlawful DACA status immigrants as opposed to others who are also eligible for military service under MAVNI, including those with legal, nonpermanent visas such as students or tourists.
Estimates suggest between 1.2 million and 2.1 million children, teenagers and young adults in the U.S. have no legal immigration status but meet the criteria for the DACA program. Those targeted by recruiters under the MAVNI program likely will be immigrants with language skills critical to national security, such as Arabic, Chinese, Pashto or Persian.
DACA status is granted by the Department of Homeland Security and includes a background check.
On average, the military recruits about 5,000 noncitizens each year, nearly all of them permanent U.S. residents, or so-called "green card" holders. Starting in 2006, the military began accepting some foreigners with nonpermanent visas, such as students or tourists, if they had special skills that are highly valued.
After entering military service, foreigners are eligible for expedited U.S. citizenship. Since 2001, more than 92,000 foreign-born service members have become citizens while serving in uniform.
The MAVNI program began in 2008 and remains a pilot program. The Pentagon notified Congress on Thursday that the program, which was due to expire at the end of this fiscal year, will be extended for another two years and will for the first time include DACA-status immigrants.
The military services are not required to accept recruits under MAVNI. In recent years, the Army has been the only service to accept a significant number of recruits under the program. The Air Force has accepted only a few and the Navy and Marine Corps have not sought MAVNI recruits in recent years.