Congress still hasn’t passed legislation protecting illegal immigrants brought to the United States as children, but Defense Secretary James Mattis said those “Dreamer” immigrants in the military shouldn’t fear deportation, according to The Hill.
What did he say?
Mattis told reporters Thursday at the Pentagon that participants in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program will be protected, even if the program expires.
“We would always stand by one of our people,” Mattis said. “They will not be subject to any kind of deportation.”
Mattis was specifically referring to DACA recipients who are on active duty, in the active reserves, or have signed a contract with the military and are waiting to go to boot camp.
Veterans who left with an honorable discharge are also protected.
Are there exceptions?
Mattis referenced two specific situations in which a military Dreamer could be deported:
- If they commit a serious felony, or;
- If a federal judge signs a deportation order.
“That would be a judicial action that obviously we obey in the court system,” Mattis said. “We don’t have veto authority over a court.”
How many people does this affect?
Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White said about 900 DACA recipients are either in the military or awaiting boot camp.
The DACA program is set to expire on March 5, and while a judge ruled last month that DACA recipients can apply for renewals, many people could become subject to deportation in the coming months.