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White House Delays Pentagon’s Plan to Allow Young Undocumented Immigrants to Enlist

In May 2014, the White House postponed the Pentagon’s plan to allow young undocumented immigrants to enlist in the U.S. Military. Essentially, the Pentagon’s proposal would provide a pathway for young undocumented immigrants, sometimes referred to as the Dreamers, to receive citizenship if they are enlisted. The White House states that the delay was requested in order to evade conflict with House Republicans while they are considering how to move forward with current immigration legislation.

The delayed policy would have to meet the requirements under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, and receive a deportation deferral. All young undocumented immigrants who qualify would then be permitted to enlist through a separate Defense Department Program, called Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest (MAVNI). This would permit immigrants who have special medical or language skills to also enlist in the U.S. military. The new Pentagon Program would allow these undocumented youth with deportation deferrals to also join the military through MAVNI.

The postponed immigration policy is considered to be a narrow approach as it is estimated to only help a handful of undocumented youth immigrants. However there are approximately 550,000 of them who qualify under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. Despite Obama’s eagerness to endorse this policy, he does not want to distract the Republicans as they place their votes on immigration policy that has already been introduced.

President Obama has stated that no action concerning immigration policy will be taken on his part for approximately two months in hopes of giving the Republican House time to discuss and possibly approve legislation that would grant legal status to illegal immigrants. In addition, he has asked Jeh Johnson of Homeland Security to postpone any actions regarding his deportation study and requested that Chuck Hagel, Defense Secretary, suspend any action regarding new policies until August 2014, after the summer.

Currently, undocumented immigrants and immigrants with deportation deferrals do not hold a green card or any residential status and therefore, are not allowed to enlist in the U.S. military. However, the proposed Pentagon Program would provide a path to naturalization for these immigrants so they may receive their citizenship in approximately 3 months. The current program in place has an annual quota of 1,500 and is already backlogged. Few immigrants meet the medical or language skills requirements set forth by the Defense Department Program previously mentioned. Both critics and supporters feel that the terms and requirements are not realistic. However, even with the debate surrounding the delayed programs, Obama will attempt to pursue the approval of the program once the summer term for Congress has ended.

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