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Fact Sheet: Military and National Security Leaders Support the DREAM Act

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September 2010 | Download PDF

The U.S. Department of Defense Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness recommends the DREAM Act in its FY 2010-2012 Strategic Plan as important to help the military “shape and maintain a mission-ready All Volunteer Force.”  See page 8 in the plan.

In fact, the DREAM Act enjoys support from military and national security leaders from across the ideological spectrum.  Many talented young men and women who consider themselves American in every way are eager to serve the nation they love in the armed forces.  The DREAM Act would provide them with this opportunity and would provide the United States a new pool of high school graduates eager to serve – a critical help to the military in meeting its increasingly difficult recruiting goals.  Below is a selection of quotes from military and national security leaders on the DREAM Act:

U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates

“The DREAM Act represents an opportunity to expand this pool [of non-citizen military service men and women], to the advantage of military recruiting and readiness.  The expansion of the pool of eligible youth that would result from the DREAM Act provides an important opportunity to selectively manage against the highest qualification standards.  This will result in improved recruitment results and attendant gains in unit manning and military performance.  Accordingly, I support this initiative…” [Letter to Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL), September 21, 2010]

Ret. General Colin Powell, Former Secretary of State

“Retired Gen. Colin Powell, a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Sunday that Congress should approve the DREAM Act, which would provide a pathway to citizenship for young illegal immigrants who attend college for two years or join the military.  ‘Our minorities are not getting educated well enough now. Fifty percent of our minority kids are not finishing high school. We’ve got to invest in education. We should use the Dream Act as one way to do it.’” [Politico, 9/19/10]

David S. C. Chu, Former Bush Administration Undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness

In Congressional testimony calling for action on the DREAM Act to strengthen the military, Chu said: “If their parents are undocumented or in immigration limbo, most of these young people have no mechanism to obtain legal residency even if they have lived most of their lives here.  Yet many of these young people may wish to join the military, and have the attributes needed – education, aptitude, fitness, and moral qualifications.”

[CQ Congressional Testimony; “Immigration and the Military”; July 10, 2006] 

Bill Carr, Former Acting Undersecretary of Defense for Military Personnel Policy

Called DREAM “very appealing” to the military “because it would apply to the ‘cream of the crop’ of students. Mr. Carr concluded that the DREAM Act would be “good for [military] readiness.” [Donna Miles, “Officials Hope to Rekindle Interest in Immigration Bill Provision.” American Forces Press Service. June 11, 2007]

Max Boot, Senior Fellow – Council on Foreign Relations and conservative military scholar

“It’s a substantial pool of people and I think it’s crazy we are not tapping into it.”  The DREAM Act “would not only offer a welcome path toward citizenship for many promising young people but also might ease some of the recruitment problems that Army has been facing of late.” [Max Boot, “Dream a Little Dream,” Commentary Magazine, September 20, 2007]

Louis Caldera, Former Secretary of the Army and Director of the White House Military Office

“The DREAM Act will materially expand the pool of individuals qualified, ready and willing to serve their country in uniform. Of the 50,000 youth coming of age every year in the terrible predicament of being ineligible to work, enlist, or receive federal financial aid to attend college, many of those are not yet ready to pursue full time education. Military service is a highly appealing way to better themselves, give back to their country and earn their residency and eventually citizenship. I have no doubt many of these enlistees will be among the best soldiers in our Army.”  [Press Conference Call, “Military Experts, Future Enlistees Discuss the DREAM Act and Defense Authorization Bill,” 9/17/10]

Major General Alfred Valenzuela, Ret.

“I’ve seen the sacrifice that these immigrant men and women make to this country.  They come here with the dream of becoming citizens & sign up to die for the country they call home but yet are never granted citizenship.  We should pass the DREAM Act so that those individuals willing to give their lives to the U.S. can also be called citizens.” [Press Conference Call, “Military Experts, Future Enlistees Discuss the DREAM Act and Defense Authorization Bill,” 9/17/10]

Lieutenant Colonel Margaret Stock, Ret.; Former Professor at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point

“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.” [Margaret D. Stock, “The DREAM Act: Tapping an Overlooked Pool of Home Grown Talent.” The Federalist Society, Washington, DC. Engage: The Journal of the Federalist Societies Practice Group, Volume 6, Issue 2, October 2005]

Sen. Daniel K. Inouye (D-HI), U.S. Senate President Pro Tempore and Decorated WWII Veteran

“…the Government of the United States declared that all Japanese Americans, citizens born in the United States or of Japanese ancestry, were to be considered enemy aliens. As a result, like these undocumented people, they could not put on the uniform of this land.  Well, I was 17 at that time, and naturally I resented this because I loved my country and I wanted to put on a uniform to show where my heart stood.  But we were denied. So we petitioned the government, and a year later they said: OK, if you wish to volunteer, go ahead.  Well, to make a long story short, the regiment I served in, made up of Japanese Americans, had the highest casualties in Europe but the most decorated in the history of the United States. I think the beneficiaries of the Senator from Illinois will do the same.” [Congressional Record, September 21, 2010 Page: S7247 and S7248]

The Center for Naval Analyses

Issued a report finding that immigrants in the military have high levels of performance and lower rates of attrition.  The report noted that non-citizens add valuable diversity to the armed forces and perform extremely well, often having significantly lower attrition rates than other recruits.  The report also pointed out that “much of the growth in the recruitment‐eligible population will come from immigration.” [CNA, “Non-Citizens in Today’s Military.” April 2005. http://www.cna.org/documents/D0011092.A2.pdf] 

Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL), lead sponsor of the DREAM Act

“The Defense Department’s fiscal year 2010-2012 strategic plan for the defense of America specifically includes the DREAM Act as a means of meeting the strategic goal of shaping and maintaining a mission-ready, all-volunteer force. In 2007, the Deputy Under Secretary of Defense at that time said the DREAM Act is very appealing because it would apply to the cream of the crop of students and be good for readiness. Over and over again, the Department of Defense has told us this is an opportunity for young people to serve your Nation, for America to be a safer place.

“I wish to relate to my friend, the Senator from Nevada, a story I told him earlier. This young man came this morning to the U.S. Capitol from the city of New York. I say to the Presiding Officer, he lives in Brooklyn. His name is Cesar Vargas. Cesar Vargas came to the United States at the age of 5, brought here by his mom and dad from Mexico. He graduated from the regular public schools of New York and then went on to graduate from college. It was more difficult for him because he is undocumented. So he couldn’t get any Federal aid to education–no Pell grants, no Federal student loans. But he made it and he graduated. He said to us this morning that after 9/11, because of his deep commitment to America, he tried to enlist in the Marine Corps. He said: I wanted to defend this country after we had been attacked by terrorists. He not only tried the Marine Corps, but he tried other branches as well and repeatedly he was turned down because Cesar Vargas is undocumented.   [Congressional Record, September 21, 2010 Page: S7247.]

“This is the choice the DREAM Act presents to us. We can allow a generation of immigrant students with great potential and ambitions to contribute more fully to our society and national security, or we can relegate them to a future in the shadows, which would be a loss for all Americans.” [Senator Dick Durbin, Floor Statement, “DREAM Act as an amendment to the Defense authorization bill,” Friday, July 13, 2007]