MOAA Seeks Legislative Fix for ‘Dreamers’ That Allows a Path to Citizenship Through Service

MOAA Seeks Legislative Fix for ‘Dreamers’ That Allows a Path to Citizenship Through Service
Seventeen naturalization candidates from 11 different countries take the Oath of Allegiance during a 2019 naturalization ceremony at the main chapel onboard Commander, Fleet Activities Yokosuka. (Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Tyler Fraser/Navy)

MOAA joined with several other military service and immigrant advocacy organizations in a recent letter to Capitol Hill leaders asking for permanent legislative solutions to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program as it pertains to servicemembers and their families.


The Supreme Court recently issued a ruling to preserve the DACA program. DACA provides protections for individuals commonly known as “Dreamers” -- undocumented immigrants who arrive in the U.S. as children. The program allows them to apply for deferred action and a work permit if they do not have a serious criminal record.




So, what does this mean for servicemembers and their families?


There are approximately 800 DACA recipients serving in the U.S. military through the Military Accessions Vital to National Interests (MAVNI) program. Immigrant servicemembers contribute critical skills that make our military effective, including language translation and medical services.


As the military services struggle with recruitment and retention, it is important to keep these contributions in mind. A 2017 study from the Migration Policy Institute estimates approximately 71,000 dreamers could use military service as a path to citizenship if legislative solutions were put in place.


In the letter, MOAA and other military and immigrant advocacy groups ask House and Senate leaders to:

  • Create a permanent legislative solution allowing Dreamers to obtain lawful permanent status. This would create a path to permanent citizenship through military service
  • Ensure the 800 DACA recipients now serving in the military can continue to serve.
  • Guarantee DACA recipients who have served or are currently serving be granted access to earned benefits including health care, transitional programs, and Parole in Place, and are encouraged to take advantage of the existing fast track to citizenship.


“We celebrate with the hundreds of military members who have DACA, their families, and their fellow servicemembers who count on them” said Ali Noorani, president and CEO of the National Immigration Forum, a leading voice for immigrant servicemembers. “At the same time, we need Congress to pass a solution that offers permanent certainty and allows more Dreamers to enlist and serve. We are grateful for the overwhelming support for military members with DACA from military and veterans’ organizations. We’ll continue to need your advocacy for a legislative solution to become reality.”


In 2019, MOAA also submitted a statement for the record highlighting this issue and others that impact immigrant servicemembers, veterans, and their families.


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About the Author

Eryn Wagnon
Eryn Wagnon

Eryn Wagnon is MOAA's former Director of Government Relations for Military Family Policy and Spouse Programs