Dreamers Serving In The Military Can Breathe A Sigh Of Relief Thanks To This Announcement

"We would always stand by one of our people."

As the fate of hundreds of thousands of Dreamers remains in the balance, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis announced on Feb. 8 that those serving in the military will not be deported back to their home countries, even when the current protections in place expire next month.

This move comes as somewhat of a surprise considering the Trump administration rescinded the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program back in September, effectively putting Dreamers — some 800,000 young people who came to this country as children and were protected under DACA — on a path to be sent back to the countries of their birth unless Congress acted to create a fix for them prior to the March 5, 2018 deadline.

According to Politico, Mattis has declared that any Dreamers on active duty or in the active reserves will not be subject to any form of deportation. The same safeguard also applies to Dreamers who have signed papers to enlist but are still waiting to attend boot camp. Lastly, veterans who left the military with an honorable discharge will also be protected under Mattis' promise.

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"We would always stand by one of our people," the retired United States Marine Corps general said, adding that he already consulted with Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen to confirm his plan.

However, there are some exceptions under which Dreamers who have served or are serving might be deported. If A Dreamer has committed a serious felony, or if a federal judge signed a final order of deportation, the terms of Mattis' vow are not expected to apply. "That would be a judicial action that obviously we obey in the court system. We don't have veto authority over a court," the 67-year-old said, as quoted by The Hill.

While this latest announcement allows some Dreamers to breathe a sigh of relief, NPR reports there are only about 850 young immigrants who are serving in the military right now or waiting to be sent to training. In other words, while important, this order only protects a small fraction of the 800,000 Dreamers who would otherwise be deported if Congress fails to pass a Dream Act (or similar legislation) before March 5.

Earlier this year many in Congress had lobbied for protections for Dreamers to be attached to a government spending bill, but when a budget deal was finally signed by President Trump earlier today, no such protections were included.

Still, The Hill reports Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said he will bring an immigration bill to the Senate floor, while House Democrats are asking Speaker Paul Ryan — who previously said Dreamers should "rest easy" — to follow suit.

Cover image via U.S. Department Of Defense / Master Sgt. John R. Nimmo Sr., U.S. Air Force.

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