The DREAM Act and National Security

Created: September 16, 2010 08:50 | Last updated: July 31, 2020 00:00

Some senators balked at Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s decision to attach the DREAM Act, a measure that would help some students become legal residents, to the defense authorization bill. It may have been a political move, but the DREAM Act does have something to do with defense: Because undocumented students can gain legal status with two years of military service, it would likely be a boon for military recruitment.

The military is behind the DREAM Act, Think Progress pointed out yesterday. The Department of Defense’s FY2010-12 Strategic Plan specifically mentions the DREAM Act as a way to help the military “shape and maintain a mission-ready All Volunteer Force.”

Military recruitment would benefit hugely from the DREAM Act, bill sponsor Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) told Army Times in 2007. “Largely due to the war in Iraq, the Army is struggling to meet its recruitment goals,” he said. “Under the DREAM Act, tens of thousands of well-qualified potential recruits would become eligible for military service for the first time. They are eager to serve in the armed forces during a time of war.”

Of course, some in the immigrants rights community question the inclusion of the DREAM Act’s military provisions altogether. The bill originally required students to attend college or do two years of community service, but the latter option was replaced with a military service option with pressure from the Pentagon.

Part of this decision has to do with fairness — after all, it seems wrong to ask undocumented immigrants to risk their lives for the country and then deport them — but some argue the bill’s language will push more low-income young people into the military. The site Change.org, for instance, started a petition asking Congress to reinstate the community service provision to the bill.

“Largely due to the war in Iraq, the Army is struggling to meet its recruitment goals,” he said. “Under the DREAM Act, tens of thousands of well-qualified potential recruits would become eligible for military service for the first time. They are eager to serve in the armed forces during a time of war.”