America has always been strongest when its policies and actions align with its ideals. That means standing as a beacon for freedom abroad, and opening doors for hardworking and law-abiding people from across the globe here at home.
That’s why it’s critical that Congress and the White House come together and pass a permanent solution following the rescission of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. It not only will keep us strong — it will keep us safe.
A solution for Dreamers will allow nearly 700,000 DACA recipients, and ideally others — young men and women brought to the United States as children — to continue contributing to our communities and our economy.
It also would strengthen our military. Nearly 1,000 Dreamers have already enlisted in our armed forces and many more possess the skillset and talent necessary for military readiness — including medical training, language skills and core cultural competencies that support our global strategic interests. Dreamers also participate in Junior ROTC programs nationwide.
This week we are reiterating a clear message to leaders of both parties in the Senate and House: Kicking these Dreamers out of our country — the very people who want to serve and would make excellent soldiers, sailors, Marines, and airmen — is not only contrary to the ideals of America, it’s bad for our military force readiness and national security.
Many members of Veterans for New Americans and Veterans for American Ideals are immigrants, refugees or their children who joined the military because of the sense of duty we felt toward the United States.
We have served with courage and distinction all over the world, and many of us continue to serve and to lead in our communities across the country. And we advocate for bipartisan immigration solutions that will enhance our military readiness and support immigrant service members and their families.
Dreamers are the next generation of patriotic and hardworking Americans who want to stay here, make a difference, and — for many -— sign up to protect us from threats around the world. They would continue the tradition that started during the Revolutionary War of immigrants giving the American military an edge. One in five Medal of Honor recipients are immigrants. And as of 2016, roughly half a million veterans were born outside the United States.
That’s why are calling on our leaders in Washington to find a solution, and soon. Each day, more than 120 DACA recipients lose their protection from deportation, and their ability to work and contribute. Without a deal, more than one-third of DACA recipients already in the Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest (MAVNI) program will be unable to fulfill their enlistment contracts and the military will lose these soldiers. We’d lose potentially thousands of additional men and women who would sign up to serve. And we’d send the wrong message to the world.
We are urging leaders in Congress to proceed with a permanent legislative solution that allows young undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children the ability to make America their permanent home.
Our years of service in defense of this country compel us to support such a solution for DACA recipients and other Dreamers who wish to serve in the United States armed forces.
As veterans, we care immensely about keeping our citizens safe. Dreamers are a key component of the next generation of patriotic and hardworking Americans. We must give these young people the opportunity to remain here and fully contribute to our nation and, if they choose, to our military.
James W. Partington is a retired United States Navy rear admiral and Veterans for New Americans National co-chairman.
Margaret Stock is a retired United States Army Reserve lieutenant colonel and Veterans for New Americans National co-chairwoman.
Scott Cooper is a retired United States Marine Corps lieutenant colonel and founder of Veterans for American Ideals.