As debate in Congress rages over the future of nearly 800,000 young undocumented immigrants, two senate Democrats unveiled a plan late Tuesday that would protect some immigrants serving in the military.
Offered as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) from Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (I-IL) and Kamala Harris (D-CA), the initiative would protect service members who joined the military through the Military Accessions Vital to National Interest initiative, a program that includes hundreds of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients. The amendment would allow the military to retain the affected service members until their background screenings are finalized.
There are between 1,000 and 1,800 immigrants participating in the MAVNI program that have lost legal status due to backlogs in screening, the senators said.
“When the military can’t find American citizens with the skills it needs to help defend our country, they turn to the MAVNI program,” Durbin said in a statement. “Right now, there are patriots prepared to lay down their lives for ours who are losing their immigration status while waiting for their background checks to clear. With all the threats facing the United States today, we simply cannot afford to lose these brave men and women because of a technicality.”
“Men and women who have volunteered to serve our country in the Armed Forces deserve respect, not deportation, added Harris, a freshman senator that has made immigration a primary policy issue. “These service members have skills and talents that are vital to our national security and we must ensure they aren’t victims of a slow bureaucratic process.”
Currently, MAVNI recruits are discharged from the Armed Forces if they haven’t completed basic training within 730 days, which isn’t possible until their background checks are finished. Additionally, they risk losing their legal status in the US, and may face deportation.
The amendment would require MAVNI recruits to remain in the military until their background checks are completed, regardless of how long it takes.