U.S Military Enlistment for Immigrants
A basic requirement for enlistment in the United States military is having a valid and lawful immigration status. Generally, the armed forces require enlistees to be U.S. citizens, U.S. nationals, or lawful permanent residents (green card holders). However, there are exceptions for citizens of the Republic of the Marshall Islands, Palau, and Micronesia, who may enlist owing to a treaty between the United States and their countries. Some foreign nationals who are present legally in the United States and have a valid Social Security Number may enlist through the MAVNI program if their enlistment is “vital to the national interest.” Unfortunately, undocumented aliens (even with DACA) are not currently eligible to enlist in the U.S. armed forces. Once enlisted, U.S. military personnel can acquire expedited citizenship.
Proposed Immigration Legislation Related to Undocumented Immigrants in the Military
The Dream Act is a proposed bill that would allow young undocumented immigrants who entered the United States as children to become citizens if they meet certain criteria. A provision includes military service as a way to satisfy the criteria. However, the Dream Act has only collected dust and never materialized into law. But Dreamers and some legislators continue to push for change. Rep. Mike Coffman (R-CO) sponsored the Military Enlistment Opportunity Act of 2013 (H.R. 435), a stand-alone bill, which would legally permit undocumented immigrants to serve. At a press conference with DREAMers, Coffman said, “If somebody is willing to lay their life down for their country, I think they deserve citizenship.”