This week's announcement that young undocumented immigrants can now enlist in the military may benefit only a handful of DREAMers.
Margaret Stock, a retired lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve and former professor at West Point, said the Defense Department's announcement is "basically a bait and switch."
"They'll be lucky if they get maybe a dozen people," said Stock, who helped to develop the program back in 2008.
The program, called Military Accessions Vital to National Interest (MAVNI), allows the military to recruit immigrants who have unique medical or language skills. On Thursday, the Defense Department quietly announced that recruiters can now enlist those with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) status. But the entire program is capped at 1,500 participants per year, and the languages and skills required are so specific they will almost certainly eliminate the vast majority of DREAMers, according to Stock.
That's because Spanish is not one of the languages accepted under the new policy, nor is basic health-care training. An Urdu-speaking thoracic surgeon would be eligible, but few DACA recipients fit that mold, Stock said.
Furthermore, she claims, army recruiters have not been adequately trained on how to handle DACA applicants. Stock says the annual quota could be filled by the time that training is given.
The Defense Department said it doesn't know how many DREAMers could benefit from the new program.
"We do not know how many people with the required skills will apply to enter the military and therefore do not have an estimate of how many people this will potentially impact," spokesman Lieutenant Commander Nate Christensen told Fusion.
A military source who declined to be identified because he is not authorized to speak on the issue, told Fusion that it's entirely likely individual recruiters may not be aware of the new DACA policy.
A second military source said that recruitment officers received just one week's notice that the policy would be changing and that no coordination to implement the policy or train recruiters has taken place.
Only the Army and Air Force accept MAVNI participants, and DACA applicants will compete against the general applicant pool.
There could be other obstacles when it comes to background checks.
While the military does not currently enlist people with undocumented family members, the Defense Department is "working with the Department of Homeland Security to evaluate options to enlist individuals with undocumented family members and resolve the family members' status prior to the enlistee entering active duty," Christensen wrote in an email.
Young immigration reform activists have called the policy change too narrow, but acknowledge that, realistically, any broader changes will likely be left to President Barack Obama's successor.
Still, if the president believes this "small announcement" will silence our demands for broader relief, Felipe Sousa-Rodriguez, deputy managing director at United We Dream said, "he is mistaken, he is wrong."
The full memo announcing the changes is below:
Emily DeRuy is a Washington, D.C.-based associate editor, covering education, reproductive rights, and inequality. A San Francisco native, she enjoys Giants baseball and misses Philz terribly.