The Pentagon recently announced the expansion of the Military Accesssions Vital to National Interest (MAVNI) program to allow beneficiaries of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) to apply. The program allows the military to recruit certain legal aliens whose skills are considered to be “vital to the national interest” – namely those with unusual foreign language skills or with in-demand medical training – and offer them an expedited path to citizenship through service in the U.S. military.
The announcement indicates that the program will be expanded to include beneficiaries of DACA who meet the requirements of MAVNI. The MAVNI program currently allows for recruitment of up to 1,500 immigrants per year.
Unfortunately, this program is extremely limited and seems unlikely to help many DACA beneficiaries. The current list of languages and cultural backgrounds includes a variety of groups including Asian, African and Middle Eastern languages, but no groups with Spanish language cultural backgrounds are included. According to a 2013 Brookings Institute Report, the vast majority of all DACA applicants were from Spanish speaking countries (Mexico 74.9%, Central America 10%, and South America 6.9%).
The move is viewed as a very weak concession and demonstrates the administration’s current reluctance to appear to be taking any unilateral action to help immigrants. Previously, President Obama had given a timeline for introducing immigration reforms, in the face of Congress’ refusal to act, and then backed off due to pressures related to the upcoming November elections.
Immigration continues to be treated as a political football about which the parties cannot seem to reach any agreement. See our most recent post about political (in)action on immigration reform. In the meantime, the need for reform is greater than ever as families are separated on a daily basis and refugee children are detained at the border. In the business world, employers struggle with the limited availability of employment-based visas for the high-skilled professionals and entrepreneurs needed to keep our economy moving. Against this backdrop, Congress should look beyond its political differences and come to an agreement for the good of the country. However, if that’s not possible, the President should keep his word and take action in a meaningful way.
If you have questions about DACA, immigration reform, or your immigration case, please contact the attorneys at Minsky, McCormick and Hallagan.