Rep. Ruben Gallego (D., Ariz.) on Thursday introduced legislation that would permit illegal immigrants under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program to join the U.S. military.
"DACA recipients go to college, run successful businesses, and raise their families here in the U.S. But right now, they can't serve in the military," Gallego said after unveiling the bill. "My bill … fixes that so DACA recipients across the country can pursue their American Dream."
Under Gallego's bill, the roughly 600,000 illegal immigrants in the DACA program would be allowed to enlist in the military and eventually apply for citizenship.
The Democrat introduced the legislation at a time when the military faces a growing recruiting crisis, compounded by factors including the vaccine mandate, under which the Biden administration barred more than 60,000 soldiers from service. Branches of the military, including the Air Force, have faced accusations of lowering standards to boost the number of women in their units.
Gallego said his bill would relieve the military's recruitment shortfalls.
"While it is partly an immigration issue, it's also a national security issue, especially right now," the lawmaker said.
It was possible for illegal immigrants to join the military under a 2008 program, but the program expired in 2017, and illegal immigrants have been totally barred from joining the service since then.