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Hispanic Caucus on Republican Efforts to Block DREAMers from Serving our Nation in Uniform

May 17, 2016
Press Release

Washington, D.C. – Today, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) released the following statements denouncing Rep. Paul Gosar’s (R-AZ) amendment to the 2016 defense funding bill, which would prevent undocumented young people brought to the United States as children – known as DREAMers – from serving in the military. Currently, select individuals can serve under special circumstances.

Rep. Gosar is leading a group of far-right Republicans, including Reps. Steve King (R-IA) and Mo Brooks (R-AL) in an effort to remove bipartisan compromise language from the NDAA that confirms that the Secretary of Defense has the ability to use his broad discretionary power to enlist immigrants – including beneficiaries of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program – if he determines it is in the national interest.

Rep. Gosar’s amendment would change current DOD policy by preventing DACA recipients with in-demand skills, including special language skills, from enlisting through the Department’s Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest (MAVNI) program. It would also prevent the Secretary from enlisting DREAMers with other critical skills in the future, even if he determines that doing so would be in the interest of national security.

By contrast, CHC Member Congressman Tony Cárdenas has introduced an amendment that would guarantee that the compromised language will not be changed in the future. This means that DREAMers with in-demand skills – including special language skills needed in the fight against ISIS – would continue to be eligible to enlist through the MAVNI program.

CHC Chairwoman Linda T. Sánchez: “Republicans continue to reach new lows with their endless attacks on the Latino community. These young men and women want to serve the only country many of them have ever called home. They should be honored and celebrated, not discriminated against. This latest attack on DREAMers puts our national security at risk. We need a diverse military workforce made up of dedicated men and women in uniform who hold different language and technical skills. Rep. Gosar’s amendment strips away what is already very limited in scope. The Congressional Hispanic Caucus denounces this Republican effort and urges support of Rep. Tony Cárdenas’ amendment, which would ensure that all DREAMers are able to serve our country.”

CHC Second Vice Chair Joaquin Castro: “DREAMers willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for this nation, the home they love, should be celebrated not rebuked. The United States and our military are stronger thanks to the contributions of immigrants. If the Secretary of Defense determines DACA recipients can help keep our nation safe, he should have the authority to permit their service.”

CHC Whip Ruben Gallego: “This shouldn’t be a controversial issue. This is about defense and what is in the best interest of our nation and our military. I fought in Iraq, and I know that on the battlefield what matters is the character, commitment, and skills of the people you serve with, not their immigration status. I look forward to a vigorous and open debate on this important issue on the House floor this week.”

Congressman José Serrano: “America’s strength and capacity should not suffer because of anti-immigrant, partisan interests. The United States has a rich history of immigrants serving in our military. Dreamers that qualify to serve in the U.S. military under existing law possess unique skills and experiences that only strengthen our nation’s capacity abroad. Preventing DREAMers from serving is a disservice to our military and to our national security.”

Congressman Luis V. Gutiérrez: “For people that have gone through the process of applying for and being granted DACA, we should welcome their service and dedication.  Republicans should not recoil in fear every time immigrants want to contribute to the strength, vitality and defense of the United States.”

Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard: “Congressman Gosar’s amendment is completely unacceptable.  Its attempt to stop DREAMers from serving in the military is an insult to the patriotism, courage, and talent of these young men and women.  It robs our nation of many fine soldiers who could serve America with pride and distinction.  And in depriving our military of these talented individuals, the amendment makes it more difficult for our military to preserve its status as the finest fighting force in the world, defending the finest democracy in the world.  I strongly oppose Congressman Gosar’s damaging amendment.”

Congresswoman Nydia M. Velázquez: “We’ve repeatedly seen that DREAMers are American in every way other than in their legal status. These immigrants have valuable skills our military could benefit from and this discriminatory amendment, which would preclude them from serving our nation, should be defeated.”

Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez: "As a senior member of the House Armed Services Committee, I strongly believe we should allow our hardworking and patriotic DREAMers to honorably serve their adopted nation through the military. I’m incredibly disappointed that Rep. Gosar has introduced an unfair and close-minded amendment to the NDAA that would undo this important achievement and shut the door on a talent pool that’s already in our country. Denying motivated and talented DREAMers the opportunity to serve will be a disservice to our military and our country.”

Congressman Raúl M. Grijalva: “Rep. Gosar’s mean spirited amendment to strip from DREAMers the right to serve in uniform is clearly not about the integrity or quality of our military, but instead an attack on young people who call this country home. Rep. Gosar continues to carry Arizona’s flag for intolerance, and he’s marking a new low by undermining young people willing to sacrifice for our nation. America became great by welcoming people from around the world, and our military is no exception. This amendment doesn’t just betray that important history – it goes against the grain of who we are as a people.”

Congressman Ben Ray Luján: "This spiteful amendment weakens our national security in an attempt to demonize Dreamers and deny them an opportunity to serve the country they call home. With this amendment, Republicans are clearly putting their political interests ahead of the national interest with harsh anti-immigrant policies that take away the Defense Secretary’s authority to enlist Dreamers when it is in the national interest."

Congressman Tony Cárdenas:  "My amendment would ensure that DACA recipients would be able to serve in the military as part of the MAVNI program without the threat of it being taken away based off of one person's opinion in the moment.  By taking out a few words that make the provision discretionary, we are ensuring that men and women who love this country and are willing to protect our constitution will be able to do so for as long as MAVNI exists. Making this slight change in language prioritizes the safety of Americans  and those looking to prove their allegiance. It's a win-win for all."

Congressman Pete Aguilar: “To deny brave men and women the opportunity to defend the only nation they call home is fundamentally un-American. This amendment is rooted in bigotry and opposes our country’s core values. If someone is willing to give their life to keep our country safe and free, then at the very least we owe that brave service member the dignity and respect to call him or her a United States citizen.”

Congresswoman Norma Torres: “This amendment is petty, divisive, and damaging to our national security interests.  Many of these young men and women know no other country and are willing to give their lives in defense of the United States.  We should be commending this commitment and welcoming their skills, not demonizing them because of circumstances beyond their control.”

 

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