As members of Veterans for Immigration Reform (Vets4Reform), we support the inclusion of the following in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA):
- Rep. Ruben Gallego’s (D-AZ) amendment, which asks the Pentagon to consider allowing young immigrants who are recipients of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program to serve in the U.S. military; and
- Rep. Jeff Denham’s (R-CA) ENLIST Act, which would grant legal permanent residence to certain undocumented immigrants if they serve in the U.S. military.
Veterans for Immigration Reform is a network of veterans from across the nation who advocate for immigration reform from a military and veteran perspective. Both junior and senior veterans alike who have personal experience as an immigrant or serving alongside immigrants contribute to this growing network.
Veterans are a key demographic in America, and throughout our history, the military has reflected the fact that we are a nation of immigrants. They are also a group disproportionately impacted by the current broken immigration system. In 2013, the active duty military had more than 65,000 immigrants — 5% of the force — including more than 30,000 lawful permanent residents. Roughly 12% of all living veterans are immigrants or children of immigrants. In 2012, there were 608,000 veterans in the U.S. who were foreign-born.
Veterans for Immigration Reform support fixing our broken immigration system and passing broad immigration reform. Immigration reform would keep the pool of potential service members as broad as possible by including the millions of young undocumented people who came to the U.S. as children. It would also support veterans by ensuring that our service members have the support of family when they return home from the battlefield. This is the right thing to do for our national security, the future of our military, our veterans, and our nation.
The U.S. military faces a serious recruitment challenge. According to a report by Mission: Readiness, an organization of more than 80 retired generals, admirals and other senior military leaders, only one in four of young adults in the U.S. is eligible for military service. The report presents startling statistics released by the Pentagon showing that 75 percent of young people ages 17 to 24 are currently unable to enlist in the United States military. However, noncitizens represent a valuable pool of potential recruits with approximately 1.2 million noncitizens in the desired age range, and immigrants possess skills critically needed for the armed forces including language diversity and cultural competencies.
The provisions offered by Rep. Gallego (D-AZ) and Rep. Denham (R-CA) offer important first steps in reforming our immigration system, and we urge members to support their inclusion in the NDAA.
Richard Andrade, U.S. Air Force Veteran-AZ (State Representative)
Terry Araman, U.S. Army Veteran-AZ
Lew Bradlee, U.S. Marine Corps Veteran-AZ
Rita Brock-Perini. U.S. Air Force Veteran-AZ
Gilbert Cardenas, U.S. Army Veteran-AZ
Luis Cardenas, U.S. Marine Corps Veteran-AZ
Mark Cardenas, U.S. Army Veteran-AZ (State Representative)
Carol Chang Culbertson, U.S. Navy Veteran-AZ
Jim Gill, U.S. Army Veteran-FL
Derrick Goodrich, U.S. Army Veteran-AZ
Cory Harris, U.S. Army Veteran-AZ
Brett Hunt, U.S. Army Veteran-AZ
Anthony Irby, U.S. Army Veteran-AZ
Saif Khan, U.S. Army Veteran-DC
David Lucier, U.S. Army Veteran-AZ
Lee Limbs, U.S. Army Veteran-AZ
Jesus Magana, U.S. Air Force Veteran-AZ
Don Martinez, U.S. Army Veteran-CO
Luis Medrano, U.S. Marine Corps Veteran-AZ
Miguel Medrano, U.S. Army Veteran-AZ
Jim Partington, U.S. Navy Veteran-NE (Rear Admiral ret.)
Tomas Robles, U.S. Marine Corps Veteran-AZ
Alejandro Salazar, U.S. Marine Corps Veteran-AZ
Antonio Taguba, U.S. Army Veteran-VA (Major General ret.)
Rob Welch, U.S. Army Veteran-AZ
Paul Yazbeck, U.S. Army Veteran-TX