Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates implored Congress to enact legislation granting a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants serving in the U.S. Armed Forces, in a Thursday op-ed for The New York Times.
Gates is one of the longest-serving defense secretaries in U.S. history, working under both former President George W. Bush and former President Barack Obama. The former secretary made a plea to Congress to enact legislation granting a pathway to citizenship for the 800 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients serving in the U.S. military.
“There are less than 900 individuals currently serving in the military, or have signed contracts to serve, who are recipients of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) authorization. These individuals are part of the Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest (MAVNI) Pilot Program,” Pentagon spokesman Lt. Colonel Paul Haverstick previously said in a statement to The Daily Caller News Foundation.
Obama enacted DACA in 2012 de-facto protecting nearly one million illegal immigrants brought to the U.S. as underage children from deportation. DACA recipients were eligible to join the military in 2014.
“We need legislation that will provide a pathway to citizenship for those immigrants who, among other attributes, are serving or have served in the military, whether they are in America legally or were brought here illegally as children,” Gates declared.
The former secretary noted his belief that immigrants in the U.S. military are necessary to maintain recruitment levels, saying “the importance of recruiting immigrants into our military has only increased in the years since because fewer and fewer young Americans are eligible to serve. Indeed, about 7 in 10 of the more than 30 million Americans between 17 and 24 years old would fail to qualify for the military because of physical, behavioral or educational problems.”
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