The Corner

Politics & Policy

Military Amnesty Still a Bad Idea

For the past several years Representative Jeff Denham (R., Calif.) has been promoting the Enlist Act, which would grant legalization and eventual citizenship to young illegal immigrants who join the military. In June 2014, I wrote an article for NRO arguing, at the time, that it was a bad idea.

It is still a bad idea but apparently it is again being seriously considered by the congressional Republican leadership. The key sections of my argument against ENLIST are below.

On both procedural and substantive grounds, patriotic forces have opposed misusing the American military as an instrument of amnesty. For example, the American Legion vigorously objected to Representative Denham’s attempt to attach his Enlist Act to the National Defense Authorization Act. A Legion spokesman declared that, as a matter of process, defense should “stand alone” and not be burdened with “contentious and complex” immigration issues. But the Legion also made it clear that it opposed the Denham amnesty plan on its merits: “We are opposed to any policy, any legislative action that amounts to amnesty.”

Sixteen retired flag officers (nine generals and seven admirals) sent Representative Buck McKeon (R., Calif.), the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, a strongly worded letter denouncing any attempt to create a military-sanctioned amnesty and also rejecting the Senate Gang of Eight bill itself, which the generals and admirals noted “would confer amnesty on millions of aliens illegally in this country and, by failing to secure the borders, ensure that millions more will be headed here in due course.”

Heritage Action has also been at the forefront of opposition. A Heritage Action official and Marine combat veteran, Wade Miller, declared that giving amnesty to illegal immigrants who join the armed forces is “appalling.” He argues that this is because amnesty “undermines an important social narrative” and “turns military service into a penance” instead of what it should be, a “privilege” for American citizens, “who are committed to ensuring the posterity of liberty.”

Heritage’s vice president for foreign and defense policy, James Jay Carafano (a former Army officer himself), declared, “The Enlist Act is unnecessary for national security, makes a mockery of U.S. immigration law, and is a slap in the face to those who want to come here and play by the rules.”

We did not need military amnesty in June of 2014 and we don’t need it now. Will the Republican congressional leadership stand with the American Legion and the Heritage Foundation or with the National Council of La Raza?

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