Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Thursday that that he will fight to protect the estimated 800-900 so-called "Dreamers" now serving on active duty from the possibility of being deported next month.
'They are not subject to deportation unless they committed a felony or a federal judge has ordered them out for some reason, in which case we have to obey the court order, ' he said.
The White House has shown no sign of relenting on the program's March 5 sunset date, putting pressure on Congress to ratify it in a law that also includes his other immigration priorities.
"I'm not an expert on DACA, I'm an expert on military", he said. In September, the Pentagon said fewer than 900 people now serving or who have signed contracts to serve are recipients of the program.
House Speaker Paul Ryan said he'll bring a solution to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program to the House floor. The Department of Defense is coordinating with the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security (DHS) regarding any impact a change in policy may have for DACA recipients.
DACA service members are all people with a particular set of skills, such as being fluent in a key language, who came into the military through the Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest program. "The department defers to our colleagues at DHS on questions related to immigration, naturalization or citizenship".
His statement is good news for the 800 DACA recipients now enrolled in the armed forces.
The Dreamers in the military are among an estimated 690,000 non-citizens who were brought illegally to the U.S.as minors.