Can a DACA join the military? Unfortunately, DACA recipients still can’t legally serve in the military at this time.
DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, is a form of executive amnesty that shields qualifying immigrants who entered the United States as children from deportation.
Although it has not been passed yet, the Fight for the American Dream Act seeks to overturn the present rule. Read on to find out more about DACA and whether it’s possible to join the military with this status.
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Can a DACA Join the Military with the Bill Introduced?
DACA recipients, sometimes called “Dreamers,” are undocumented immigrants who came to the US as minors and are eligible for temporary deportation relief. And at the time of writing, they are still not permitted to enlist in the U.S. military.
To be clear, to enlist in the U.S. military, you must either be a citizen or a lawful permanent resident (green card holder). Meanwhile, DACA does not grant permanent legal immigration status or citizenship—it only provides temporary protection from deportation and permission to work.
There used to be a program called Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest (MAVNI) that allowed DREAMers in the military. However, it was discontinued during the previous administration in 2016.
In October 2022, Representatives Ruben Gallego (AZ-03) and Salud Carbajal (CA-24) introduced the Fight for the American Dream Act, legislation that would allow immigrants to join the military with DACA.
However, the bill has yet to be passed into law, so DACAs are still barred from joining the military for the time being.
What Are the Requirements for DACA Recipients to Join the Military?
You may have wondered, “What military branch can I join with DACA?” or “Can DACA recipients join the Navy?” and what are the requirements? The answer remains negative, as DACAs can’t join the military as of now.
Should the Fight For American Dream Act be passed into law, the requirements for joining the military and National Guard are:
- In possession of employment authorization document issued by the US
- Between the age of 17 to 35 (except for Coast Guard, where the age requirement is 17-27)
- Mentally and physically healthy
- At least a high school graduate (or equivalent)
- Branch-specific requirements, such as having no more than two dependents for Air Force and Army recruits.
Right now, the only shot DACAs have at becoming a member of the armed forces is to get a Green Card, usually by marrying a U.S. resident. In this case, here are the steps to make Dreamers eligible for joining the military:
- Submit Form I-130 to the USCIS and pay a fee of $535. Your submission form should also include proof of the sponsoring spouse’s citizenship and a marriage certificate.
- Submit Form I-485
- File Form I-485 and pay a fee of $1225.
- Wait to see if your application is approved.
What Are the Benefits of Joining the Military With DACA Eligibility?
DACA grants a reprieve from deportation and the ability to legally work but does not create a permanent legal status. Recipients are also not eligible to serve in the military at this time.
If passed into law, the legislation proposed by U.S. Representative Gallego would allow DACAs to earn citizenship in exchange for military service enlistment. Over 600,000 current DACA recipients may be impacted by the law.
Can DACA Recipients Be Drafted?
The United States does indeed allow the draft of foreign nationals, including DACA recipients. The enlistment of civilians into the armed forces is known as a draft and is typically revived in times of national emergency by an act of Congress. Right now, however, the DACAs’ military future remains uncertain.
The DACA program is a novel initiative that gives protection to qualified immigrants. However, being part of the program still doesn’t guarantee legal residence or citizenship, and DREAMers are currently barred from joining the military—this should be your answer to “Can a DACA join the military?”
The Fight for the American Dream Act gives hope that DACA, or DREAMers joining the military, may become a reality in the future. The proposed law also guarantees citizenship in exchange for DREAMers’ military service.
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