Clearing the Air on Immigrants, the Military, and Deferred Action

salutePresident Obama’s June 15 announcement on deferred action for DREAMers raised a number of questions about what it means and how it will be administered. One of the biggest questions is regarding military service. According to the DHS memo, among those eligible to be granted deferred action are an individual who is an “honorably discharged veteran of the Coast Guard or Armed Forces of the United States.”

Then, during his speech to NALEO, GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney stated that he would support a path to legal residency for “those who have risked their lives in defense of America.” The language of the DHS memo compounded by Romney’s remarks led some to believe that undocumented immigrants could serve in the military and therefore qualify for deferred action or some sort of legalization program. But this is not the case.;

There are serious questions about whom and how many would qualify for deferred action through the military route. Some suggested that as many as 30,000 people would qualify. However, in reality, the answer is closer to zero.

The U.S. military does not knowingly allow unauthorized immigrants to serve. According to Margaret Stock, author of Immigration Law and the Military, U.S. law limits military enlistments to US citizens; US nationals; lawful permanent residents; certain lawfully present persons from Palau, Micronesia, and the Republic of the Marshall Islands; and certain other persons whose enlistment has been determined by a Service Secretary to be “vital to the national interest.”

There may be a few undocumented immigrants who served in the military when the system for checking documentation was more lenient. However, they are likely to be over 31 years old and therefore ineligible for deferred action. Furthermore, non-citizens who have served in the military since September 11, 2001 are automatically eligible to naturalize and therefore generally don’t need deferred action.

The Obama administration has acknowledged that “few, if any, individuals will fall into this category.” The 30,000 number, instead, refers to the estimated number of immigrants who would join the military and qualify for legal status under the DREAM Act. Unlike deferred action, if it were to pass, the DREAM Act would grant conditional residence to qualified immigrants who could then join the military or go to college and earn permanent lawful residence.

michele waslinAccording to Stock, there may be a handful of people who would qualify for deferred action under the June 15 announcement–for example a person who joined the military before 9/11, did not naturalize, was honorably discharged, lost his immigration status, and is still not 31 years old–but these are few and far between. Non-citizens who served in the military, were honorably discharged, and have questions about whether they qualify for deferred action should contact an immigration attorney.

Michele Waslin
Immigration Impact

Posted: Friday, 29 June 2012


  1. Jack Black says

    The DREAM Act should offer citizenship for military service, but not for attending college.
    People all over the world strive to attend US universities. It’s an incredible opportunity for foreigners just to go to school here, never mind getting handed citizenship as well. Our universities are publically funded. As such, our own children should benefit from attending college, not the children of those who broke our laws and jumped ahead of the immigration line.
    The DREAM Act currently prioritizes illegal aliens over American citizens. Children of people who snuck into this country will get public support for college, and they’ll take college seats and funding away from our own kids.
    Why do liberals keep pushing for this massive amnesty giveaway? Because they feel sorry for the kids illegal aliens brought and kept here all these years. Liberals want to be nice. That’s understandable. But it’s naïve to think that supporting a few million illegal aliens will help the situation. All it will do is degrade the opportunities our own children should be receiving, both in college and in the future careers. In fact, amnesty has just encouraged even more illegal entry into our country. Reagan gave millions of illegal aliens amnesty in 1986, and the result was a massive influx of 20-30 million more illegals. The more we allow bad public policy of this sort, the larger the political pressure to allow massive immigration that will devastate our economy and our middle class employment. The current liberal terminology for this is “immigration reform,” which is a code word for increasing immigration, especially for one specific ethnic group. Once the voting block is large enough, politicians will have to cater to that group in order to get elected. That group will then demand more and more immigration, until our middle class is destroyed and the US functions as a third world country. Massive immigration will allow a few billionaires to run our economy and force the rest of us to forfeit our minimum wage laws, workplace safety rules, social security and all the other employment gains we’ve fought for over the past century. Is that what liberals want? For their kids to struggle for $10 a day factory jobs along with millions of desperate immigrants?
    If we want to help poor people from other countries, the solution is to export the concept of a strong middle class and democratic principals to those countries, not to degrade our country to match third world nation economies. We start by demanding an end to amnesty for illegal aliens. It’s wrong to reward those who jump ahead of the immigration line.
    Let’s revise the DREAM Act to offer citizenship for military service, a true sacrifice, but not for attending colleges and taking seats and funding away from our own children.

  2. Hwood007 says

    So you ae telling me that this was not really real, it was done to look good instead and will product little results.  I should have known.

    • JoeWeinstein says

      Yes, just a couple sentences in the article suffice to drive the point home, that deferment for military DREAMers is much ado about almost nothing:  “The US military does not knowingly allow unauthorized immigrants to serve. …Furthermore, non-citizens who have served in the military since September 11, 2001 are automatically eligible to naturalize and therefore generally don’t need deferred action.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *