WASHINGTON — U.S. Representative Jeff Denham (R-Turlock) today re-introduced H.R. 60, the Encourage New Legalized Immigrants to Start Training Act (ENLIST Act), which would allow otherwise qualified undocumented immigrants brought here by their parents through no fault of their own to earn legal status through military service.
“There is no greater act of patriotism than serving your country in the armed forces, and my ENLIST Act would allow young immigrants to earn legal status in order to stay in the country they love,” said Rep. Denham. “Immigrants have honorably served alongside us in the armed forces for decades, and this would be a positive step forward for our nation as we seek a collective solution to this issue.”
Rep. Denham introduced the ENLIST Act last Congress as H.R. 1989, where it garnered bipartisan support, and in September, President-elect Donald Trump expressed support for such a measure.
Below is a list of common misconceptions about the ENLIST Act:
MISCONCEPTION: The ENLIST Act would incentivize more illegal immigrants to come to the United States.
TRUTH: The ENLIST Act only applies to those who were brought to the United States as children through no fault of their own prior to the year 2012. Anyone coming to the United States after that date would not be eligible, so this cannot be an incentive for those individuals.
MISCONCEPTION: Under this bill, immigrants would sign up to serve and then leave the military after receiving legal permanent residence.
TRUTH: Qualified immigrants must serve out the term of their enlistment contracts in order to receive legal permanent resident (LPR) status. They cannot earn the status if they do not serve full terms or are dishonorably discharged.
MISCONCEPTION: We can’t trust undocumented immigrants to have America’s best interests at heart.
TRUTH: Rep. Denham served with many immigrants during his 16 years in the Air Force and while serving in Operations Desert Storm and Restore Hope. The immigrants he met, and which many of his veteran colleagues have also met, were wholly dedicated to our country and to its best interests. Immigrants have fought in every major conflict since the beginning of our nation and more than 660,000 military veterans became citizens through naturalization between 1862 and 2000.
MISCONCEPTION: Undocumented immigrants broke the law to get here. Why should we reward them?
TRUTH: We shouldn’t hold society’s most vulnerable persons responsible for the actions of their parents. These individuals were brought here as young children, through no fault of their own. They know no other country to call home. Allowing them to serve in the military is not a reward or job. Serving your country is a sacrifice that could result in the loss of life for the freedoms of protecting our great nation.
MISCONCEPTION: The ENLIST Act would allow undocumented immigrants to take priority over citizens to enlist in the military and deny Americans the right to serve their county.
TRUTH: The ENLIST Act only allows undocumented children to apply to serve. The bill does not guarantee they will be accepted. Instead, it keeps enlistment at the sole discretion of the respective military branches, meaning they must fit all other requirements. Under this bill, military forces would continue to accept the very best of their applicants – regardless of their heritage. Applicants would have to meet enlistment requirements, including speaking English, passing a background check, and having a high school diploma.
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Editor’s Note: Full bill text available here