A provision in the latest defense authorization bill would have. . . . expressed the sense of Congress that the Pentagon should study the question of whether unlawfully present immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children should be allowed to enlist in the armed forces. . . . [C]onservative Republicans . . . cranked out an amendment to strip it from the bill. . . . Brat trumpeted the victory in a misleading news release. – Anti-Immigration Conservatives Hit a New Low. What’s Wrong with Letting Undocumented Immigrants Serve in the U.S. military, Reason.com, Barton Hinkle, 5/25/15.
Fact Check: Hinkle’s article is more misleading than anything Rep. David Brat (R-VA) said. Much of the article focuses on a man named Vargas who entered the U.S. illegally with his parents when he was five years-old. As someone in this category, he is eligible to apply for amnesty under President Obama’s DACA edict. Hinkle maintains that Vargas is an individual of outstanding ability and character, and would be a real asset to the U.S. military. Hinkle strongly implies that defeat of the amendment would prevent him from serving. That is misleading.
Federal policy already allows a small number of illegal aliens to serve in the military, commonly if they have exceptional skills and talents. Maybe Vargas could enlist through this policy, and maybe this wouldn’t necessarily be such a bad thing. It’s possible to make some intelligent exceptions to rules, but it is never intelligent to make rules from exceptions.
Using the example of Vargas is doing exactly that. In his title Hinkle asks what’s wrong with letting “undocumented immigrants” serve in the armed forces. Here he makes no qualifications, suggesting that any and all should be allowed to enlist. The legislation struck down by the amendment seems to lay the groundwork for the same general eligibility—at least for all in the DACA category.
The purpose of the amendment was to nip this principle in the bud so that it wouldn’t blossom. Hinkle tries to mock Brat for using the example of the Roman Empire to make one of his points. One of the reasons Rome fell, he noted, was that the Romans indiscriminately filled the ranks of their legions with foreign-born soldiers who had little allegiance to Roman society and its values. Is this the direction we want to set for our U.S. military? The answer should be obvious.
An issue Hinkle omits entirely is whether a significant number of illegal aliens should be able to enlist when the military is downsizing and requiring citizens to leave the ranks. As Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL), the author of the amendment stated, “There is no military recruitment and retention deficit that justifies supplanting Americans and lawful immigrants with illegal aliens.”
Another reason for the amendment was to send the message that the House does not accept DACA and President Obama’s broader and more recent amnesty edict because they usurp the constitutional authority of Congress as the lawmaking body of government. Currently this being weighed by the federal judiciary. Backers of the amendment believed that vote endorsing possible service by DACA beneficiaries would send the message to the courts that the House really doesn’t oppose DACA—or is at least ambivalent about Obama’s edict making.
It’s hard to see, how supporters of the amendment, in Hinkle’s words, “hit a new low.” Much more reasonable than the Reason writer’s view is that they were standing for the U.S. military and the integrity of our Constitution. Nothing low about that.