The Department of Defense is encountering some unexpected hurdles in its attempt to pass legislation that would allow some immigrants to serve in the military in exchange for a heightened chance at U.S. citizenship. According to the Associated Press, the White House has asked the DOD to table the plan until later this summer. The move from the executive branch is intended to minimize the risk of upsetting Republicans in Congress prior to voting on immigration reform that’s already been passed by the Senate.
The people who would be brought into the armed forces under this measure would be among the more than 500,000 individuals who have benefited from President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals plan. DACA, instituted just over two years ago, allows immigrants who came to America at a young age to obtain work permits and avoid being deported. According to ColorLines, more than 81 percent of individuals who applied for DACA in 2012 were approved, though the program requires renewal by each member every two years, with the first deadline having just recently passed.
While DACA had a high initial approval rate, in order to qualify for the plan proposed by the DOD, an individual would have to also demonstrable medical or linguistic skills. This stipulation, outlined in the Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest program, greatly reduces the initial pool of those eligible from DACA. This is vital information, in that one argument against the proposed program has been that it allows for mass naturalization.
Obama’s move is believed to be aimed at buying time while the current immigration legislation passes through the House. Bobby Whithorne, a spokesman for the White House, was quoted by the Associated Press as saying, “He wants to leave no stone unturned to make sure the House takes that opportunity, follow’s the Senate’s lead and takes action.”