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Amendments That Matter: Path to Citizenship – Military DREAMers

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If you think the Senate Judiciary Committee’s markup of the Gang of 8 bill has been intense so far, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet. As the SJC moves into Titles II and III of the bill—which cover everything from E-Verify to detention policy to family immigration to agricultural workers, not to mention the path to citizenship itself—we’re highlighting some of the major areas we expect to see addressed, and the amendments we’re particularly hopeful about or upset by within each one. That’s why we’ve started this “Amendments that Matter” blog series. Below we write about the “Military DREAMer” amendment, which is being offered to the Senate Gang of 8 bill. Given the bipartisan support for this issue in the past, this amendment should be a no-brainer. But of course, that’s no guarantee it won’t be controversial.

Also view our list of key amendments filed in the Senate Judiciary Committee to S. 744

This week, we look forward to the introduction of Senator Blumenthal’s Amendment 12, “to permit registered provisional immigrants who have honorably served in the Armed Forces and meet certain other conditions to become naturalized United States citizens.” In plain language, this amendment would allow DREAMers, who have DACA status, to serve in the military and to apply for citizenship just as any other non-citizen who serves in the military would. That means DREAMers who serve in the military for a year would qualify for naturalization.

The documentary The DREAM is Now profiles Alejandro, a DREAMer from Chicago, who wants to serve as Marine. He can’t now. But, Blumenthal Amendment 12 would change that. Alejandro could be a U.S. Marine — and, after a year serving the United States, he could apply for naturalization.

There is a strong and long tradition of immigrants serving in the United States military.  In March of 2003, one of the first fatalities in the Iraq war was Lance Cpl. Jose Gutierrez, who arrived in the United States as an undocumented immigrant from Guatemala. Gutierrez, who was killed in a tank battle, was profiled by CBS News:

Did you know that approximately 38,000 Americans in uniform are not American citizens – and that at least 10 men who have been killed in Iraq were not U.S. citizens?

That sounds astonishing, but in fact, it’s nothing new. It’s been like that in every war the United States has fought, from Valley Forge to Vietnam.

But, as 60 Minutes II first reported earlier this year, the heroism and sacrifice of non-citizens was barely known — until Lance Cpl. Jose Gutierrez died in battle in Iraq.

He came from Guatemala, and he came to the United States illegally. Correspondent Bob Simon reports.

We can tell you how his story ended. He was killed in a tank battle in southern Iraq on March 21.

Lance Cpl. Gutierrez was granted U.S. citizenship posthumously.

In January, before the introduction of the “Gang of 8” bill, Cesar Vargas, executive director for the DREAM (DRM) Action Coalition — and a DREAMer who wants to serves in the military — wrote about the bipartisan nature of this measure:

Since 2010, Members of Congress from both parties have gone on record with their openness to allowing DREAMers to the military. The list of Members who have gone on the record even includes some Senators one might not expect to see.  For example, during the 2010 Congressional session, Senator Judiciary Committee Chairman Jeff Session (R-AL) approved of the idea of allowing undocumented immigrants to serve in the military and put themselves on a path to citizenship, calling it a ”fine program.”

Additionally, at a speech before the National Association of Latino Elected Officials in June , 2012, Governor Mitt Romney said, “As President, I will stand for a path to legal status for anyone who is willing to stand up and defend this great nation through military service. Those who have risked their lives in defense of America have earned the right to make their life in America.” He may not be aware that there is already a path to legal status for those who serve; but they are generally not allowed to serve. Governor Romney also indicated he supported the military component of the DREAM Act.

Most recently,  Rep. David Rivera, (R-FL), introduced the ARMS Act, a bill that would give DREAMers the opportunity to serve in the military and allow them to pursue the path to U.S. citizenship which is open to any non-citizen serving in the military. Rep. Rivera introduced the bill saying, “if somebody is willing to die for America, then certainly they deserve a chance at life in America”. In addition, Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) also floated a proposal to provide relief to DREAMers which would have opened military service toDREAMers . Though Rubio’s concept would have excluded a pathway to citizenship for the majority of DREAMers who would have been granted relief from his proposal, those wishing to serve in the military would have been eligible to apply for citizenship just as any other service member would.

A decision to allow DREAMers to serve our nation will be met with widespread support around the country as it will enable thousands of young patriots who yearn to serve and pursue a military career. Dreamers from across the country are gearing up, sharing their stories at www.LetUsServe.org, and ready to take their case to the country to request that the Department of Defense update DOD policy to make service a reality.