As I wrote earlier this week, many military experts have come out in support of the DREAM Act because it would significantly increase the pool of qualified recruits in the Latino population, which comprises the majority of undocumented immigrants and is more likely to enlist and serve in the military than any other group. Today, on a national conference call, former and retired military personnel called on Senators to pass the National Defense Authorization Act with the DREAM Act as an amendment to the legislation.
Louis Caldera, former Director of the White House Military Office and United States Secretary of the Army, stated:
The DREAM Act will materially expand the pool of individuals qualified, ready and willing to serve their country in uniform. Of the 50,000 youth coming of age every year in the terrible predicament of being ineligible to work, enlist, or receive federal financial aid to attend college, many of those are not yet ready to pursue full time education. Military service is a highly appealing way to better themselves, give back to their country and earn their residency and eventually citizenship. I have no doubt many of these enlistees will be among the best soldiers in our Army.
Major General Alfred Valenzuela echoed Caldera’s call to action:
I’ve seen the sacrifice that these immigrant men and women make to this country. They come here with the dream of becoming citizens and sign up to die for the country they call home but yet are never granted citizenship. We should pass the DREAM Act so that those individuals willing to give their lives to the U.S. can also be called citizens of the U.S.
Retired Lieutenant Colonel in the Military Police Corps Margaret Stock reiterated her support of DREAM Act legislation:
Passage of the DREAM Act would directly benefit American national defense by enlarging the pool of highly qualified, US-educated ‘green card’ recruits for the US Armed Forces. Rather than having these US-educated young people sent back to countries they can’t remember–where they will no doubt be forced to serve in foreign militaries and other foreign organizations–they can put their talents to use for the benefit of the American people and the All Volunteer Force.
Valenzuela pointed to the moving story of Marine Lance Cpl. Jose Gutierrez in an effort to highlight the desperate need for immigration reform. Gutierrez was one of the first U.S. servicemen killed in combat in Iraq. However, he was not a citizen of the country he died for. At the age of 14, Gutierrez made the 2,000-mile journey from Guatemala City to the U.S. Like many of the undocumented immigrants that politicians deride and demonize, Gutierrez hopped 14 freight trains to get through Mexico and was detained by immigration authorities. Because his parents were no longer alive, Gutierrez was made a ward of Los Angeles Juvenile Court and received permanent residency when he was 18. His foster sister stated that he “wanted to give the United States what the United States gave to him. He came with nothing. This country gave him everything.” Valenzuela presided over his funeral.
Today’s call also highlighted the stories of Caesar Vargas and Carlos Saavedra, two young men who want to give back to the U.S. by serving in the military, but can’t because they are undocumented. “Whether it is serving in the military as a JAG officer or serving in the front line as an intelligence officer to lead Marines, who themselves may be DREAMers, I want to earn my place next to the great heroes of our nation that have and are fighting to defend the bedrock principles that are embedded in our Constitution,” stated Vargas.
Reposted with permission from The Wonk Room.