MOSCOW, September 26 (RIA Novosti) – Some immigrants living in the United States illegally, but approved by the Deferred Action for Child Arrivals (DACA) policy, will have an opportunity to serve in the country's military under a new US Defense Department policy.
"We're just not sure how many within that existing population of DACA would have the linguistic skills to qualify," a defense official familiar with the policy change told the Military Times Thursday.
"These are kids who entered the country at a fairly young age and have basically grown up in the United States, so the limit of their language talents would probably be the language that they received at home," the official added.
The new program, known as Military Accessions Vital to National Interest (MAVNI) will be open to immigrants without a proper visa if they came to the United States with their parents before age 16. They must also be approved under the 2012 Obama administration DACA policy.
According to New York Daily News, there are up to 2 million immigrants living in the United States illegally who might qualify for the MAVNI program.
The program is capped at 1,500 recruits per year. Officials cited by the Military Times say it is not clear how many of those might be unlawful DACA status immigrants as opposed to others who are also eligible for military service under MAVNI, including those with legal, non-permanent visas such as students or tourists.
The Military Times estimates that between 1.2 million and 2.1 million children, teenagers and young adults in the United States have no legal immigration status but meet the criteria for the DACA program.
DACA status is granted by the Homeland Security Department and includes a background check.
On average, the US military recruits about 5,000 non-citizens each year, according to the Military Times. Almost all of the recruits are permanent US residents.
Since 2006, the US Defense Department has been accepting some foreigners with non-permanent visas, such as students or tourists, if they have special skills that are highly valued.
According to the Military Times, those targeted by recruiters under the MAVNI program are likely to be immigrants with language skills perceived as critical to US national security, such as Arabic, Chinese, or Persian.