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Lawmaker Wants to Open Military Academy Doors to DREAMers

Lawmakers are making a bipartisan push to open an avenue for young immigrants to serve in the military and be eligible for legal status.
Image: Chuck Hagel
File photo of a U.S. soldier standing guard near a military aircraft in Kandahar, Afghanistan, Sunday, Dec. 8, 2013. Mark Wilson / ASSOCIATED PRESS

The nation’s military academies welcome students from throughout the world but turn away young immigrants illegally in the country who were raised and schooled in the United States. Rep. Joaquín Castro, D-Texas, wants to change that with a measure to allow young immigrants with deferred deportations to attend the academies if accepted. The measure is co-sponsored by Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla.

The measure also would open the way for the immigrant youth to serve in the military because all academy students are required to serve at least five years when they graduate. It is intended for young immigrants who qualify for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) status, which allows young immigrants who were brought to the country as children to work or study in the country without fear of deportation for a period of two years and subject to renewal.

Castro offered his measure as an amendment to a defense spending bill the House was to consider later this week. The House Rules Committee was to decide Tuesday afternoon whether to allow it to advance.

Its prospects were uncertain. House Republicans not only have stalled work on immigration reform but also are caught up in an intra-party fight over whether to allow an amendment from Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Calif., to also be debated on the floor with the spending bill. Denham’s amendment would allow young immigrants here illegally to serve in the military and gain legal status that way. But conservative Republicans previously have blocked Denham’s measure, known as the ENLIST Act.

“I’m hopeful that expanding opportunities to all of our students, especially those who would sacrifice to protect our freedoms, is a cause that knows no party and is championed by all my colleagues,” Castro said.