While military recruitment efforts historically yield a strong presence from Hispanics, current rules around Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) hinder the efforts. The primary issue, increased security vetting of non citizens, means Hispanic DACA beneficiaries find roadblocks around their efforts to enlist.
“The share of the active-duty force that is Hispanic has risen rapidly in recent decades,” according to a Pew Research report. “In 2015, 12 percent of all active-duty personnel were Hispanic, three times the share in 1980.” What’s more, according to a recent Cato Institute report, “American adults with Central American ancestry were more than twice as likely to be an active-duty military member than other U.S.-born American adults.”
The military branches require legal status among recruits. President George W. Bush provided incentive to immigrants by easing the path to citizenship for those who joined the military. But for those undocumented who entered the country as children and who now take advantage of DACA, the temporary nature of the status leaves them outside the ranks.
President Barack Obama signed DACA into existence through executive order, giving legal status to beneficiaries in 2-year increments. Of the approximately 700,000 current beneficiaries of the program– often referred to as DREAMers– 9 out of 10 are Hispanic.
“But while recruiters routinely deal with diversity, not all understand the complicated immigration policies affecting those with temporary statuses,” according to a National Public Radio report.
“The Pentagon has made a hash out of these immigrant recruiting programs by making them so complicated that the average person can’t understand them,” says Margaret Stock, an immigration attorney and a retired lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve.
As immigrants tend to stand out as stellar recruits who stick with basic training and who are more likely to re-enlist, along with fewer disciplinary problems, “recruiting immigrants gives the Pentagon a better bang for its buck,” she says. “So if you don’t recruit from that group, you’re missing out on a lot of high-quality troops.”
In particular, Hispanics gravitate toward service in the Marines as surveyed youth point to courage — a hallmark of the Marines — as an extremely important characteristic.
When Congress again picks up the discussion of DACA within the framework of immigration reform, representatives hopefully will keep at top of mind the potentially solid military recruits currently left standing on the sidelines.