On the day Attorney General Eric Holder announced his resignation, President Barack Obama enacted an executive action on Thursday to allow certain DREAMers to serve in the military and be put on an expedited path to citizenship.
Obama vowed to hold off on broad executive amnesty that would also potentially grant temporary work permits to millions of illegal immigrants until after the midterm elections to help Senate Democrats retain the Senate. According to the Military Times, this executive action will expand MAVNI (Military Accessions in the National Interest) “to target foreign nationals with high-demand skills, mostly rare foreign language expertise, or specialized health care training.”
The program, which admits foreigners with specialized medical or language skills, will now be “open to immigrants without a proper visa if they came to the U.S. with their parents before age 16″ and have been approved for Obama’s 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
The MAVNI program “is capped at 1,500 recruits per year,” and Obama’s executive action “may be the first phase of a broader government-wide effort to ease pressure on immigrants and create new paths to citizenship,” according to the Times, because “after entering military service, foreigners are eligible for expedited U.S. citizenship.” The Times noted that “since 2001, more than 92,000 foreign-born service members have become citizens while serving in uniform.”
In May, Jessica Wright, the Acting Under Secretary for Personnel and Readiness at the Pentagon, testified before a Senate subcommittee hearing in Chicago that the Obama administration was working to expand MAVNI, which started in 2008, to include DREAMers. Soon after, Pentagon officials reportedly reached an agreement to allow some DREAMers in the program, but the Department of Defense did not make a formal announcement until Thursday, when it notified Congress “that the program, which was due to expire at the end of this fiscal year, will be extended for another two years and will for the first time include DACA-status immigrants.”
According to the Military Times, “the military services are not required to accept recruits under MAVNI.” The publication notes that “in recent years, the Army has been the only service to accept a significant number of recruits under the program. The Air Force has accepted only a few and the Navy and Marine Corps have not sought MAVNI recruits in recent years.”
Pro-amnesty advocates who want more from Obama on immigration were still less than pleased. The pro-amnesty America’s Voice group called the move “weak,” saying “this foray into executive action is a fig leaf that pretends to help Dreamers but will, in fact, help virtually no one.”
“The Obama Administration should go well beyond the MAVNI program and expand DACA and enlistment policies to include as many DREAMers and aspiring Americans possible,” the group said in a statement. “If today’s measure is any indication of the type of executive actions we can expect to see from the President after the elections, we are not impressed.”