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One in Seven DACA-Eligible Individuals has Language Skills Needed by U.S. Military

Dreamers Can Fill Military Needs in STEM, Medical Fields

NEW YORK, NY – As Washington debates how best to move forward on DACA, New American Economy (NAE) is highlighting the vital role Dreamers play in our economy, our communities, and our national security. According to research released by NAE, a substantial portion of the DACA-eligible population has language or workforce training that could help address the U.S. military’s recruitment challenges.

“Keeping Dreamers out of the military weakens our national security,” said John Feinblatt, President of New American Economy. “While the demand for skilled, multilingual professionals in our armed forces only grows, recruiting Dreamers to serve the country they love offers a ready solution.”

The brief, Outside the Wire: How Barring the DACA-Eligible Population from Enlisting Weakens our Military, finds:

  • More than one out of every seven members of the DACA-eligible population has language skills that are currently in short supply in the U.S. military. The U.S. military has identified more than three dozen languages for which they routinely have trouble finding enough speakers to meet current recruitment needs. More than 169,000 DACA-eligible individuals ages 18 and above—or 14.6 percent—speak one of those languages routinely at home.
  • More than 40,000 of DACA-eligible individuals of recruitment age have either healthcare or STEM training. Almost 42,000 people who are DACA eligible have worked in healthcare in the last five years—including more than 19,000 who have worked as either medical practitioners or technicians. Additionally, roughly 27,000 have held science, technology, engineering, or math (STEM) positions. The U.S. armed forces routinely face challenges recruiting individuals with these skill sets.
  • The language skills of the DACA population would be relevant to a wide range of global missions. Almost 28,000 Dreamers speak Korean at home, while more than 9,000 speak Russian—both languages identified as posing recruitment challenges. There is also a substantial portion of the Dreamer population that speaks one or more languages relevant to the country’s ongoing military engagements: Almost 12,000 DACA-eligible immigrants speak Arabic, Urdu, Pashto, or Farsi at home.

In addition to economic research on the DACA-eligible population, New American Economy has collected immigration stories from every single congressional district through One such story comes from Diana, a Dreamer living in Colorado with the hope of serving in the U.S. military.

Diana thought she had everything she needed to apply for a college ROTC scholarship. She’d done well in high school, taking advanced International Baccalaureate classes, and gotten all her paperwork together. Then she looked at the final to-do list for the application. “At the top of the list was U.S. Citizen,” she says. “And my heart dropped.” She applied for DACA, so she can legally live and work in the United States if she renews her status every two years. But DACA doesn’t make her eligible for the ROTC scholarship she had set her heart on. “I feel like if you’re willing to give up your life for the country, they should let you go,” she says, adding that it’s hard enough to recruit young people for programs like the ROTC, so why would the government turn away people like her who are eager to enlist. Currently only citizens, legal permanent residents, and a few other non-citizen groups are eligible to serve.

Today’s release is the seventh in our series on DACA-eligible immigrants’ contributions to the economy. Learn more about their income levelstax contributions, payments into Social Security and Medicareemployment, entrepreneurship, and voting potential. Check out all of our DACA-related research here.

About NAE

New American Economy is a bipartisan research and advocacy organization fighting for smart federal, state, and local immigration policies that help grow our economy and create jobs for all Americans. More…