DACA Dreamers: The Army is No Longer a Fast Track

Donald Trump’s recent announcement to end the Obama-era DACA act that saved close to a million people, has received various reactions. Some of fear, some of optimism, but all were shocked. DACA recipients have turned to the U.S. military to see if they have a chance of staying. In an attempt to avoid deportation, recipients have agreed to join the U.S. army, but there are more intricate policies and obstacles for them to evade before citizenship is granted for their service.

Even prior to Trump’s announcement of ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, the Pentagon had always imposed strict protocol and background checks on all immigrants wanting to enlist in the army. A large sector of the army is composed of immigrants who wanted a fast track in granting citizenship. The military has a massive demographic of immigrant soldiers enlisted, as protection from deportation is a prize in exchange for the sought-after languages and skills of immigrants.

A successful military program that has shaped and paved the way of legal residency in the United States is the Military Accessions Vital to Military Interest (MAVNI). The program directed by the Department of Defence recruits and appeals to immigrants with critical skills to be enlisted in the army. Soldiers enrolled in the program usually obtain citizenship towards the end of their Basic Combat Training. An announcement from the Pentagon in October 2014 declared that people belonging to the DACA program were eligible for MAVNI, changing the lives of many hopeful migrants.

A 24-year old U.S. Army recruit, William Medeiros, was one of the many people in distress after Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s announcement of the Trump administration planning on ending the program. Sessions made statements justifying the decision to end the program that had helped around 800,000 people, saying “We have to act (against DACA) now to prevent terrorism and national security threats.”

“How does that make any sense?” Medeiros asks. “I enlisted to protect against that. I came here when I was six and I have never left the country. I don’t even have a speeding ticket.” Many immigrants like Medeiros are in the same predicament, trying to comprehend the populist beliefs that have plagued America and changed the attitudes of many.

The age of terrorism has driven U.S. security forces and entities to screen immigrants more thoroughly, but the denial of citizenship status is something that wasn’t seen coming. “We didn’t have the slightest idea that Trump was going to get in and discontinue the program,” Medeiros adds.

Margaret Stock, a retired officer and the founder of the MAVNI program concludes, “If you’re really worried about threats to the military, look somewhere else. Immigrant recruits, especially DREAMers, are the least likely to be a security risk because they are the most vulnerable if they get caught.”

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