Most Latinos don’t monitor the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) but they noticed on Thursday that two amendments to the Defense Budget failed to provide a path for undocumented immigrants or their children to serve in the U.S. military.
In a 221-202 floor vote, the House amended the NDAA to remove an amendment proposed by Rep. Ruben Gallego, (D-AZ). His amendment would call for the Defense Secretary to only consider the recruitment of young immigrants who are recipients of the Deferred Action of Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program created by President Barack Obama in 2012. Rep. Jeff Denham (R-CA) didn’t even get a floor vote for his amendment to include provisions of the ENLIST Act, which would allow for certain immigrants to serve the military and gain legal status in the U.S. by law, not executive action.
The blocking of these two amendments by the House Republicans continue to deny those, who are Americans in every way except legal documentation, the opportunity to prove their patriotism through military service.
A letter to Congress from the Veterans for Immigration Reform – a network of veterans from across the nation who advocate for immigration reform – encouraged support of these amendments and reminded our leaders that the United States has always been served by immigrants willing to defend our country.
As cited in the letter, in 2013 alone, the active duty military had more than 65,000 immigrants (5% of the force) including more than 30,000 lawful permanent residents. Roughly 12% of all living veterans are immigrants or children of immigrants. In 2012, there were 608,000 veterans in the U.S. who were foreign-born. These immigrant veterans are the types of individuals who possess the skills critically needed for the armed forces including language diversity and cultural competencies.
Some will say that plenty of the 221 Republicans who voted to remove the Gallego amendment because of loyalty to GOP leadership and to protect the NDAA bill. Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL), who lead the effort to repeal Gallego’s amendment, stated his efforts were aimed at “stop[ing] military service opportunities from being taken from struggling American families in order to give them to illegal aliens.”
However, there where 20 Republicans, including Rep. Jamie Herrera Beutler (R-WA), who expressed similar sentiments to those in the Veterans for Immigration Reform letter. “I do support the ability to earn citizenship,” she said, “and if a person who has the courage and conviction to take the oath and join our nation’s warriors to defend you and I, what more can they do to prove their allegiance?”
While many of the GOP House members voted with Rep. Brooks, this will not be the last chance to allow DREAMers to serve their country. There is hope that this vote shows growing support of Republicans who will support a pathway to citizenship through military service.