In a rare assurance to young immigrants serving in the military who were brought to the United States illegally by their parents, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis on Thursday said they would continue to be protected from deportation even if their current legal protections expire next month.
He added that the only exception was if the service member had committed a "serious" felony or a federal judge had signed deportation orders.
At an earlier Pentagon briefing, Dana White, the Pentagon's chief spokesperson said that the status of non-citizens serving in the military was "within the purview" of the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security. "We've been over [the DACA issue] in great detail".
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His statement is good news for the 800 DACA recipients now enrolled in the armed forces.
MAVNI is a special DOD recruitment program that selects legal immigrants who are deemed to have vital skills serve in the military. Now I'm not an expert on DACA, I'm an expert on military.
In September, he said he was ending the DACA program created by his Democratic predecessor Barack Obama, effective in March, unless Congress came up with a new law.
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"Citizenship for us is what ultimately will protect us", Harminder said.
"The challenge goes back many years, is what I'm told, where we've had some people who have been in or something and something's happened", he explained. "I'll just tell you that someone who is on active duty, on active reserve or inactive reserve, whatever the Reserve status is, they are not subject to deportation unless they committed a felony or a federal judge has ordered them out for some reason, in which case we have to obey the court order", he said.
"There are less than 900 individuals now serving in the military, or have signed contracts to serve, who are recipients of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) authorization", Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Paul Haverstick said in a statement in September. ".If they have an honorable discharge, they are still protected".
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