A new policy that was announced by the Department of Defense on Sept. 29 stated that undocumented immigrants will be permitted to join the U.S. military. According to USA Today, this will be the first time in decades that undocumented immigrants will have the chance to join the ranks of the military due to an expansion of rules in an existing program. The program will permit recruiters to encourage foreign nationals with high-demand skills to join in the armed forces.
Some of these high-demand skills include foreign language expertise and specialized health care training, the source reported. The program is known as the Military Accessions in the National Interest (MAVNI), and it is open to undocumented immigrants who do not have a proper visa but entered the U.S. with their parents before turning 16. Those who want to participate in MAVNI will also be permitted to stay in the U.S. through the Obama administration’s policy known as Deferred Action for Child Arrivals (DACA).
The source stated that the expansion of the program by officials at the Pentagon may be the first step of the government’s attempt to take the pressure off of immigrants and create a new pathway to citizenship for those who entered the country without following the proper legal channels.
Although there are as many as 2.1 million children, teenagers and young adults living in the U.S. as undocumented immigrants and who qualify for DACA, the MAVNI program has an annual cap of 1,500 recruits. According to the source, individuals who are the most likely to be targeted by MAVNI are those with language skills that are critical to national security such as Arabic, Chinese, Pashto or Persian.
Those who enter the U.S. military are eligible to become U.S. citizens under an expedited process. The source stated that more than 92,000 service members born outside the U.S. have become citizens while serving in uniform since 2001.