A senior defense official expressed hope today that a provision in the stalled immigration bill that would have allowed some undocumented aliens to join the military won’t fall off the radar screen.
The Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors, or DREAM, provision in the immigration bill was expected to help boost military recruiting, Bill Carr, acting deputy undersecretary of defense for military personnel policy, said today during a telephone conference with veterans’ group representatives.
The DREAM provision offered a way for high-achieving children of undocumented or illegal residents to join the military and, ultimately, become citizens, Carr explained.
“In other words, if you had come across (the border) with your parents, yet you were a minor child and have been in the U.S. school system for a number of years, then you could be eligible to enlist,” he said. “And at the end of that enlistment, then you would be eligible to become a citizen.”
Because the provision would have applied only to the “cream of the crop” of students who have demonstrated top aptitude, it would have been “very appealing” to the military, Carr said. “It would have been good for readiness,” he said.
While President Bush returns to Washington to help revive the stalled immigration reform package, Carr said talk is already taking place to see if at least the DREAM provision of the stalled bill can proceed.
At this point, he said, “we are not sure if the Congress would be interested in resurrecting that segment of the bill.”
Certain non-citizens have been eligible to enlist in the military since the Revolutionary War. Today, about 35,000 non-citizens serve in the military, and about 8,000 permanent resident aliens enlist every year, said Marine Maj. Stuart Upton, a Pentagon spokesman.
The 2006 National Defense Authorization Act established uniform citizenship or residency requirements for enlisting in the military. President Bush’s executive order allowing non-citizens to apply for citizenship after only one day of active-duty military service remains in effect, Upton said.