Defense Secretary James Mattis said Thursday that undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children who are currently serving in the military or received an honorable discharge will not face deportation despite the ongoing immigration debate in Washington.
While negotiations over the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program have raised concerns among the hundreds of thousands of young undocumented immigrants who would lose protection from deportation if the program is not continued, Mattis told reporters that recipients who were in the US military are not at risk.
"Right now in terms of the DACA situation, in other words our guys on active duty, and that sort of thing or in the active delayed enlistment program, are not in any kind of jeopardy," Mattis said.
There are over 800 DACA recipients in the US military who fall into those categories.
"I'm not an expert on DACA, I'm an expert on military," he said. "I'll just tell you that someone who is on active duty, in the reserves -- on active reserve or inactive reserve, you know, whatever their reserve status is -- they are not subject to deportation unless they've committed a felony or a federal judge has ordered them out for some reason, in which case we have to obey the court order." Mattis added he was "not even aware of a case like that."
"If they have an honorable discharge, they are still protected," Mattis said, telling reporters that he has spoken with the secretary of Homeland Security "in great detail" about the issue.
"Anyone who is in the delayed enlistment program -- in other words, they're already signed up and they're waiting to go into boot camp -- anyone on active duty, anyone in the active reserves, and anyone with an honorable discharge is right now, except for two possible exceptions, they will not be subject to any kind of deportation," he said.
"We would always stand by one of our people, and I have never found the Department of Homeland Security unwilling to take any call from anyone on my staff if we in fact found someone who had been treated unjustly," Mattis added.
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