New Immigration Hope For Military Dependents, But Enlistment Hurdles Remain

New Immigration Hope For Military Dependents, But Enlistment Hurdles Remain

"Kathleen Welker, a spokeswoman for the Army Recruiting Command, confirmed the Army enlistment policy bars applicants who have spouses or children who are in the country illegally. The latest legal opinion from the command was formulated in 2010, according to Welker.

“When an applicant shows that his dependents or her dependents do not have proper documentation, that is a red flag to a recruiter that the applicant in this case is harboring an illegal alien,” Welker said.

Welker said the reasoning is based on a federal statute known as 8 USC 1324 that makes it a crime to harbor or conceal someone who is in the country illegally.

“And that means that the applicant then is breaking the law and may be subject to arrest,” Welker said. “Well, that is not what we are about in the U.S. Army.”

Welker said it is simply a question of following the current law.

“If and when the law is changed, recruiting policies will follow suit," she said.

The harboring statute Welker is referencing was written more than 50 years ago. But the interpretation of it she cited is controversial.

“That is a totally untenable reading of the law,” said Omar Jadwat, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union's Immigrant Rights Project. “It’s just wrong.”

According to Jadwat, the case law around the harboring statute doesn’t support the Army Recruiting Command’s legal analysis.

“Multiple federal courts of appeals have specifically rejected the notion that cohabitation with somebody who lacks immigration status is harboring,” Jadwat said.

In fact, a spokesperson for Immigration and Customs Enforcement said the agency itself doesn’t enforce the harboring statute to arrest relatives of unauthorized immigrants unless there is some other criminal activity or aggravating circumstances." - Jude Joffe-Block, Fronteras, Nov. 20, 2013.