DACA repeal will have a terrible impact on our military
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It has been a long time since troops returning from Vietnam were met with spitting and shouts of “baby killer.” Thankfully our country and people, for the most part, have seen the error of those ways.

Today the proper respect is offered to those who served this nation, particularly in its battles. Like the Vietnam conflict, the war on terrorism is undeclared and today’s military service poses many grave dangers. A recruit may find himself deploying to the names of familiar headline countries like Afghanistan or Iraq, or may face an increasingly unstable situation in the Korean peninsula.

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It is also entirely possible that a recruit will find herself in far-flung regions of the world facing an unknown enemy along a front with no demarcation. Unfortunately, for thousands of these young men and women, they may face a different kind of “cold shoulder.” They won’t be spat upon or yelled at; instead they will be packed up and deported to places around the world that in many cases they do not even know.

 

Under the Obama-era program called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), those children that were brought to the United States illegally by their parents can obtain authorizations for work, school and yes, military service.

To take this one step further, a Department of Defense program called Military Accessions Vital to National Interest (MAVNI) offers those with particularly useful skills, like foreign language, to accelerate their citizenship through military service. Unfortunately, last year a security issue with some MAVNI candidates led to increased security screening. One fallout of this quickly enacted increased screening was that little thought was given to the impact on the lives of the recruits.

Many recruits that were now stuck in limbo awaiting additional screening would fall out of status (have their visas expire) under no fault of their own. Although at the time, I was successful in ensuring that legal status would be extended during this long wait for increased vetting, I am not sure if the Trump administration will adhere to those agreements.

Given the penchant for reversing anything with an Obama print, I am skeptical that any protections for these young recruits will be granted. Also, this treatment will most certainly apply to the DACA recruits that are not part of the MAVNI program.

Making matters worse is that not only do these recruits have all of their information in the hands of the federal government, they are in constant contact with the military or in many cases are already in military service. This makes the job of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents all the easier.

If you have read any of my other Hill op-eds, you will note that I sound a continual drumbeat about the danger in a separated military from its population. Although the elimination of DACA has a much broader impact than just our military, it is another moment where we risk turning our backs on promises made. I hope we never return to the dark days when our veterans were shunned. We simply cannot give a cold shoulder to these young men and women.

Less than 1 percent of the U.S. population serves in the military. For those who do not, be thankful for those who do. If you have not and will not serve, then stand up for those who volunteer, including our Dreamers. This is the very least that is owed. I call on everyone to take a stand and not allow our great nation and this government to turn a cold shoulder to those who know no other home than the U.S. and wish only to serve.

Todd A. Weiler is a former chief human capital officer and assistant secretary of defense with the U.S. Department of Defense. Weiler served as a Senate-confirmed executive leading efforts to eliminate barriers and promote opportunities for military service.


The views expressed by contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.