Since Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) announced that the defense authorization bill will include the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act — which would put eligible undocumented youth who were brought to the U.S. as children on a path to citizenship — Republicans have accused the Majority Leader of “using the defense bill in a political fashion.” While it would be naive to suggest that Reid’s decision to include the DREAM Act has nothing to do with politics, the Republican argument that the DREAM Act has nothing to do with the defense reauthorization bill is mistaken.
In fact, the DREAM Act is included in the Department of Defense’s FY2010-12 Strategic Plan to help the military “shape and maintain a mission-ready All Volunteer Force”:
That’s because a specific provision of the DREAM Act would allow those who meet all eligibility requirements, serve in the U.S. armed forces for at least two years and maintain “good moral character” to obtain regular lawful permanent resident status after six years. Many Military experts have come out in support of the DREAM Act because it would significantly increase the pool of qualified recruits in the Latino population, which comprises the majority of undocumented immigrants and which research indicates are more likely to enlist and serve in the military than any other group.
Margaret Stock, retired Lieutenant Colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve, has stated “Potential DREAM Act beneficiaries are also likely to be a military recruiter’s dream candidates for enlistment … In a time when qualified recruits—particularly ones with foreign language skills and foreign cultural awareness – are in short supply, enforcing deportation laws against these young people makes no sense. Americans who care about our national security should encourage Congress to pass the DREAM Act.” Conservative military scholar Max Boot has stated, “I think it’s crazy we are not tapping into it.”
According to Jorge Mariscal of the University of California, San Diego, the military provision of the DREAM Act was “there at the beginning, the Pentagon helped write the DREAM Act.”
Overall, the DREAM Act would have a positive fiscal impact and would help a significant portion of the undocumented Latino community to become productive legal U.S. residents. It’s hard to deny that the DREAM Act is directly related to the nation’s military and defense interests, however, it’s important to at least keep in mind the warnings that others have presented concerning the implications of that, particularly for the Latino community.