Obama's New Military-Related Amnesty
Late on a Friday afternoon, the Obama administration quietly announced its decision to exempt a new category of illegal aliens from immigration enforcement. Unlike President Obama's lawless Deferred Action program, which grants legal status, work permits, and Social Security accounts to nearly any illegal alien up to age 31, the new policy is aimed specifically at the illegal alien children, spouses, and parents of people who are currently serving or who have previously served in the U.S. military. At first blush, such a policy seems at least somewhat reasonable considering the sacrifice our service members are making for the country.
But new information from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) indicates that the Obama administration's arguments for crafting the policy have little to do with the actual implementation of the policy.
The nine-page memo justifies granting legal status to illegal alien children, spouses, and parents of service members because "there is concern within the DoD" that some service members "face stress and anxiety because of the immigration status of their family members in the United States." USCIS explains that "military preparedness can potentially be adversely affected" if service members "worry about the immigration status of their spouses, parents and children."
Upon closer inspection, it is clear that the Obama administration's policy is not only about the arguably justifiable effort of reducing the stress of men and women serving on the battlefield. It is largely just another opportunity to shield illegal aliens from deportation.
There are a few things to think about.
First, while reducing the stress of active duty service members may be reasonable, this policy will also benefit illegal aliens related to retired servicemembers who are no longer serving. It is difficult to see how this fits into the narrative about stress, anxiety, and military preparedness.
Second, USCIS has confirmed that illegal aliens will benefit even if the service member was in the military for a very short period of time and has since passed away. Again, the arguments about stress, anxiety, and military preparedness are difficult to apply in this situation.
Finally, USCIS also is not prepared to deny an illegal alien amnesty even if the service member was discharged from the military under problematic circumstances. It does not appear that a servicemember's dishonorable discharge for security reasons, violence, sexual assaults, or imprisonment, for example, would prevent USCIS from granting legal status to illegal aliens related to the servicemember. This is particularly odd in that the government generally denies all veteran benefits to servicemembers who are discharged for problematic reasons.
The following is a transcript of a conversation I had with a staffer at the USCIS Field Operations Directorate:
Me: You're saying it doesn't matter [if the service member is alive]?
USCIS: No it doesn't matter because...anybody could die. They don't have to be alive. If they had to be alive, a lot of people won't qualify.
Me: So they just have to prove they had a family member who once served in the military.
Me: Okay. The other question I had was, does it matter how long they served in the military?
USCIS: No, it doesn't matter.
Me: Does it matter if they left in good standing, or if they were kicked out of the military?
USCIS: That's a question that we were asking, so...that answer should be answered when you apply. Because it doesn't say. I don't think...we really don't know if it matters or not. That was not in our instructions, we don't know that.
As to that final issue of whether illegal aliens are still eligible for amnesty even if the servicemember was dishonorably discharged, it seems that the White House would have addressed it in their nine-page memo if the goal were to prevent such situations from resulting in amnesty. The fact that it was not addressed suggests that a service member's record in the military, even if highly-problematic, will not prevent illegal aliens from obtaining legal status.
In sum, despite being sold as a way to reduce the stress and anxiety of service members currently serving in the U.S. military, it appears that Obama's latest amnesty effort would benefit illegal aliens related to a service member who once served for a short period of time, who was kicked out of the military on less than honorable grounds, and who has since passed away.
The Obama administration has yet to explain its justification for amnestying illegal aliens under these conditions. There are likely many service members who have other kinds of stressful family situations that are not on the president's radar. It is difficult not to conclude that the administration's real motive behind the new policy is to expand the president's amnesty agenda.
Jon Feere is a legal policy analyst at the Center for Immigration Studies. This piece originally appeared on CIS's blog.