WASHINGTON – Arizona Rep. Paul Gosar introduced a bill Monday to bar certain immigrants from serving in the military, a move he said is needed to keep the Obama administration from “enlisting DACA aliens through a backdoor amnesty program.”
Gosar’s Military Amnesty Prevention Act comes just three weeks after an attempt to pass a similar measure as an amendment to the Pentagon budget failed by one vote in the House.
It also comes the same day that Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Tucson, announced plans for a bill that would essentially do the opposite, creating a special visa program to let military veterans return to the U.S. if they had been deported.
Gosar, a Prescott Republican, said his bill is needed to rein in the administration, which accused of trying to “cement President Obama’s lawless immigration agenda” by hijacking a Pentagon pilot program for limited enlistment of lawful immigrants.
“Military enlistment rules explicitly prohibit illegal aliens from enlisting in the armed forces, and DACA aliens do not have lawful status,” Gosar said in a statement from his office announcing the bill.
DACA – the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program – was instituted by the White House in 2012 for people in this country who were brought here illegally as children. If they met several other criteria – they had to have had a steady presence in the U.S, have a clean criminal history and have been in school or the military, among others – they could apply for a two-year deferral of any deportation action.
During those two years, they could get authorization to work in the U.S. The deferral could be renewed after two years.
Gosar said that not only is it an overreach for the administration to allow DACA recipients to enlist, it’s unnecessary at a time when the Defense Department has more applicants than jobs to fill, and plans to shed 160,000 jobs in coming years.
But Rep. Ruben Gallego, D-Phoenix, derided Gosar’s bill as “just another in a long series of thus-far unsuccessful attempts he has made to ban DREAMers from serving our nation in the armed forces.”
Gallego said in a statement from his office that the Defense secretary has the authority “to allow any immigrant to enlist if it’s in our national interest – including DACA recipients who want to fight for the country they call home.”
A Marine veteran who was deployed to Iraq, Gallego said letting immigrants serve is in the national interest.
“I fought in Iraq, and I know that on the battlefield what matters is the skills, character and commitment of the people you serve with, not their immigration status,” his statement said.
Grijalva, meanwhile, announced plans Monday to introduce the Veteran Visa and Protection Act, which would let deported veterans return to the U.S. permanent lawful residents. The bill, a copy of which was not available Monday, would also give those veterans access to their military and veteran benefits, according to a statement from Grijalva’s office.
The statement cited the case of Hector Barajas, who was deported to Mexico after serving in the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division. He is one of 59 vets who have been deported or are facing deportation, according to a recent report by the American Civil Liberties Union of California.