On Wednesday, the House Armed Services Committee is expected to mark up the Fiscal Year 2019 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which authorizes the level of defense spending and sets policies controlling how the money is spent. As in previous years, Democrats will likely try to attach H.R. 60, the ENLIST Act—authored by the amnesty lobby’s favorite House Republican, Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Calif.)—or a similar military amnesty provision to this must-pass piece of legislation.
Currently, federal law prohibits illegal aliens from enlisting in the military. Only U.S. citizens, nationals, and legal permanent residents are eligible to enlist. There are narrow exceptions allowing the Secretary of Defense to approve individuals otherwise not qualified if “such enlistment is vital to national interest.” However, this exception is seldom used.
The ENLIST Act— opposed by both FAIR and the White House—amends current law to allow illegal aliens to enlist in the military in exchange for a green card and an expedited path to citizenship. In fact, the bill requires the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to grant an illegal alien a green card upon enlistment so long as the alien establishes that he/she: (1) came to the U.S. unlawfully present by and since December 31, 2012; and (2) was under the age of 15 on the arrival date. There are no guidelines for how an illegal alien can establish meeting these requirements, and DHS has no discretion to deny the green card.
Simply, the ENLIST Act is amnesty. It rewards those who break our immigration laws with legal status (here, green cards) and immediate eligibility for citizenship. DHS has no discretion under a military amnesty mandate; it is required to give illegal aliens a green card upon enlistment. And, after only one day of service, these aliens become eligible for citizenship.
Military amnesty also threatens national security. Illegal aliens lack reliable documents that will allow DOD to conduct thorough background checks, including criminal activity in the U.S. or the aliens’ home countries. The inability of the military to conduct a thorough background check increases the likelihood that would-be terrorists can enlist and use their newly-received green cards to facilitate their plans to harm U.S. citizens.
Additionally, military amnesty blatantly undermines the rule of law. This would create a fundamentally unfair situation in which one set of individuals is favored under the law. By giving automatic eligibility for citizenship to illegal aliens upon enlistment, illegal aliens are put on par with legal immigrants who respected our laws and waited patiently – often for years – to immigrate to the United States.
FAIR strongly opposes giving illegal aliens citizenship in exchange for military service. Such policy rewards illegal aliens, ignores the interests of Americans and legal immigrants, and does so without benefit to the military. Moreover, the inclusion of such provisions in the NDAA is particularly objectionable. Changes to our immigration laws must be debated openly and fairly for the benefit of the American people. The effort to hold such “must-pass” pieces of legislation like the NDAA hostage in order to force a legalization scheme on Americans is nothing more than a political game by unscrupulous politicians and the amnesty lobby. It does not serve the national interest.