Durbin Urges Military Leaders To Extend Recruitment Efforts To DACA Recipients

In today’s Defense Appropriations Subcommittee hearing, Durbin reiterated that Dreamers should be able to serve in the military as a means to obtain citizenship

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), a member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense, today participated in a Subcommittee hearing entitled “A Review of the President’s Fiscal Year 2024 Budget Request for the National Guard and Reserve.”  During the hearing, Durbin questioned the witness, General Daniel R. Hokanson, Chief of the National Guard Bureau, on the Guard’s recruitment efforts as the military as a whole faces recruitment and retention issues and further urged the attending military leaders to expand recruitment efforts to DACA recipients, who should be able to use their military service as a pathway to citizenship. 

“The [Government Accountability Office] GAO noted last year that the Pentagon ‘is facing the most challenging recruitment environment in 50 years.’  The Army, for example, has especially struggled to meet recruitment goals.  The service missed its end strength number by 15,000, or 25 percent, in Fiscal Year 2022.  I’m glad to see this budget request increases competitive compensation and funding for recruitment marketing programs, as well as improving quality of life for current service members,” said Durbin.  “I’d like to ask you, if you would tell me, what the impact has been on the Guard and Reserve in this recruiting challenge?” 

General Hokanson replied that recruiters are performing well with the Army National Guard and are on track to meet their authorized end-strength by the end of the Fiscal Year.  He shared his optimistic view that both the Army and Air National Guard will continue to maintain near or full authorized end-strength. 

“Tell me what the elements are that you think are most persuasive for those who are enlisting,” said Durbin. 

General Hokanson noted that educational and health benefits are what interest recruits most.  However, corporate employers are now offering more competitive benefits packages to potential employees, making it more difficult for the National Guard to recruit.  

Lieutenant General David G. Bellon, Commander of the Marine Forces Reserve, added that a population decline has also led to difficulties in recruitment. 

Durbin concluded his speaking time by urging the military leaders to update policies to allow for better recruitment of DACA recipients, which would also offer them a pathway to citizenship through military service.  Although our laws allow for immigrants to gain a path to citizenship through military service, current policies restrict opportunities for DACA recipients to join the military and have prevented many immigrants from using this pathway. 

“We have 780,000 DACA recipients…many of whom want to serve the country where they grew up.  But there’s an obstacle – Congress.  We have not given them a pathway to citizenship.  This should be a pathway.  You ought to open up your opportunities, across the board in the military, to Dreamers and to DACA recipients, who really want to serve this country,” Durbin said.   

“For some reason, there’s been resistance, perhaps it was the luxury of a lot of recruits and we didn’t need others.  But, I’ve met them.  I know them.  They make great sacrifices just to have this opportunity to wear the uniforms that you’re wearing today.  I hope that when you’re in the highest levels of the Pentagon that you’ll discuss this candidly.  Your predecessors have not always been cooperative when I’ve raised this issue.  There’s a resistance because these folks are, ‘undocumented.’ They may not have been born here, but they love this country just as much as any of us who pledge allegiance to that flag,” said Durbin. 

Video of Durbin’s questions in Committee is available here. 

Audio of Durbin’s questions in Committee is available here.

Footage of Durbin’s question in Committee is available here for TV stations.