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DREAMers, Lawyers and Immigration Advocates Respond to Narrow Opening of MAVNI Program to DACAmented Youth

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To listen to a recording of today’s call, click here.

Yesterday, the Department of Defense announced that DACA recipients can now apply for enlistment into the Military Accessions Vital to National Interest (MAVNI)—a program open to a limited number of individuals who possess unique medical and language skills.  The problem is that, at most, only a handful of DACA recipients will actually qualify for military service under the MAVNI program.

On a press call today, DREAMers, lawyers and immigration advocates reacted to this new development and explained why DACA recipients who are willing to put their lives on the line should be given the full and fair opportunity to enlist in the military and serve their country.

Said Cesar Vargas, Co-Director of DRM Action Coalition and aspiring military DREAMer:

This is a positive step. However, this policy change is incomplete. There are many other qualified young Dreamers who have other critical skills like computer science, cyber security that our military needs. We cannot shortchange our military out of political expediency. Most importantly, this limited action shouldn’t be precedent for action the president will take on the other urgent  immigration changes.

Added Hina Naveed, Dreamer aspiring to serve in military and possible MAVNI candidate:

Even though I may be eligible since I am a Pakistani Citizen, speak Urdu, and am pursuing a degree in Nursing, I refuse to enlist until my fellow DREAMers have the opportunity to join me as proud service members as well. Additionally, if this is indicative of the approach that the President may take in terms of administrative relief, it’s not enough. Offering morsels of relief, while deporting thousands every day is unacceptable.

As Margaret Stock, retired Lieutenant Colonel in U.S. Army Reserve; former Professor at U.S. Military Academy at West Point; and 2013 MacArthur Genius Grant Recipient, explained:

This really looks like a bait-and-switch.  The administration is saying, we’re going to help you out, but we’re not really going to help you out.  They will be lucky if they’re able to admin a dozen DACA recipients.  This looks like a policy mistake by the administration, like they didn’t know what they were doing when they issued this.

Speakers reminded the Administration that small bore, half measures won’t cut when it comes to executive actions expected to be announced by the President after the election.  The immigrant, Latino, and Asian Pacific Islander American communities are looking for full relief that protects millions, not half measures or cosmetic changes.

According to Felipe Sousa-Rodriguez, Deputy Managing Director at United We Dream:

Dreamers will not be fooled by the Administration’s latest effort to placate our community by opening enlistment into the military to a small pool of Dreamers. The MAVNI pilot program has requirements that the vast majority of Dreamers wouldn’t qualify under, and would leave out thousands of Dreamers who are capable to serve their country now if given the opportunity.

Said Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice:

As our champion Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) has made clear, the Department of Defense can open up enlistment to non-citizens if it is in the national interest.  Giving that opportunity to DREAMers who willing to lay down their lives for the country they call home should be a no-brainer.  The idea of DREAMers serving in the military is one the least controversial aspects of what’s arguably a controversial issue.  Even Mitt Romney was for it.  If this is any indication of what we can expect from the President’s forthcoming executive action announcement, the Administration better think again.

To listen to a recording of today’s call, click here.