Veterans Urge Inclusion of Immigration Provisions in Defense Bill

WASHINGTON, D.C. — In a letter to Congress today, military veterans are urging lawmakers to include two immigration provisions in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which the House is scheduled to take up Wednesday.

Thanks to a bipartisan vote last week on an amendment offered by Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ), the bill includes a provision asking the Pentagon to consider allowing young immigrants who are recipients of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) to serve in the U.S. military.

Separately, Rep. Jeff Denham (R-CA) is pushing for a vote on an amendment that would add the provisions of his ENLIST Act to the bill. These provisions would allow immigrants to serve in the military and gain legal status.

Although both amendments face opposition, they have received broad bipartisan support in Congress and from veterans around the country.

Twenty-five veterans have signed the letter urging Congress to take up these provisions in the NDAA bill. They point out that allowing DACA recipients and other immigrants who want to serve and earn legal status to enlist is in the interest of national security.

“You only need to read the names on our war memorials to see that immigrants have always been major contributors to our military,” said Luis Cardenas, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran from Arizona. “These bipartisan amendments would boost our national security because DACA recipients would make strong and capable recruits, like the thousands of immigrant troops before them.

“I’ve had the honor of meeting many of these young men and women and can speak to the sincerity of their desire to serve this country, which they know as their own,” Cardenas continued. “As a legal immigrant who served in combat, I can relate to the desire to serve this country, which has given us so much.”

“Having served in combat with immigrant soldiers, I have seen firsthand their commitment and loyalty to the United States,” said Donald E. Martinez, a U.S. Army veteran from Colorado. “Our armed forces are among the few in human history that support and defend an ideal, not an individual, which makes serving in our military more appealing to immigrants. I support these amendments without reserve. They focus on national security and defense of our nation.”

Veterans for Immigration Reform supports fixing our broken immigration system and passing broad immigration reform. In June 2014, the group released a white paper that underscores the importance of immigrants to our military and national security, and the need for an immigration system that honors their service and sacrifice.

“The efforts by Congressmen Gallego and Denham offer important steps forward for our immigration system and in making sure our veterans have the opportunities, skills and status they need to succeed,” said Brett Hunt, a U.S. Army Veteran from Arizona and National Veterans Coordinator for Veterans for Immigration Reform.

“We urge members to support these immigrant-focused provisions in the NDAA. This is the right thing to do for the future of our military and for our national security, our veterans and our nation.”