Once again the consequences of the unilateral political ambitions of the White House have resulted in an outcome that the vast majority of Americans neither expected nor knew happened. Quietly, in 2009 the Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest (MAVNI) program hit the ground. The MANVI program was scheduled to end September 30, 2014, but has just been extended. That extension included an expansion of the program few expected.
The MANVI program was initially a pilot program to allow the military access to legal non-citizen residents that could provide skill sets vital to the military. An example of such a skill set was foreign language or professional medical skill. The program in many ways was similar to previous programs such as under the Lodge Act of 1950, to help with the Korean War effort or the Military Bases Agreement of 1947 that allowed Filipinos to enter the Navy until 1991. A key point of the original MANVI program was that it allowed only legal immigrants, a point that changed September 25, 2014.
Due to the unilateral imposition of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) upon the nation, the MANVI program has now been modified to accept illegal aliens (or undocumented immigrants as they are referred to under DACA). It has been suggested that the change in requirements is part of a broader immigration reform policy to be enacted by President Obama, as stated by the Military Times,
“The new DoD policy may be the first phase of a broader governmentwide effort to ease pressure on immigrants and create new paths to citizenship.”
Whether or not this is the first step towards a path to citizenship, or some other aspect of the promised actions on immigration reform without the consent or authorization of Congress that President Obama has promised to enact after mid-term elections in November, remains to be seen. What is clear is that this move by the Department of Defense (DoD) has caught the attention of certain opponents and supporters of expanded rights for illegal aliens. Justin Vélez-Hagan, the founder of the National Puerto Rican Chamber of Commerce, has stated,
“I know enlisted people who are getting pushed out of the service right now. It’s hard [to deal with that] and at the same time have people who aren’t in the country legally [replace them].”
In February 2014 Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel proposed to cut 80,000 Army troops and a fleet of Air Force fighter jets, reducing the military to the smallest size in 74 years. Still the impact of MANVI, with or without illegal aliens, is small. To be exact, the MANVI is capped at a total of 1,500 people in any given year that can access the program.
There has been no word on the number of illegal aliens that would be allowed to fulfill that program cap, or if any additional restriction on illegal aliens that apply may have. Which has led supporters of DACA and granting expanded rights to illegal aliens to state, as Felipe Sousa Rodriguez, deputy managing director at United We Dream, did,
“It’s really important that this does not become a new benchmark, where the administration believes that if it gives us a new benefit that only benefits very few people it will silence our demands.”
Ultimately the final outcome of illegal aliens in the military may be resolved in November or shortly thereafter. President Obama will present the public with his immigration reform agenda. Congress (especially the House of Representatives) will weigh in on the potential Executive Branch overreach. An overreach that the Obama Administration expects may lead to impeachment proceedings. Then the public will voice its opinion in various polls. Political leaders on both sides of the issue will certainly take their cues from that.
Presidential approval is currently at 41.3%, with both Republicans (56%) and Democrats (46%) being seen as not doing a good job on immigration reform. If the new DoD policy is a test for the November announcement, changes in polling may well tailor how and what is presented after the mid-term elections. Either way the question remains, should illegal aliens be allowed to join the military as the DoD will now allow?