Judging by the reaction from many in the business community to the announcement that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program would be terminated, one might get the sense that our entire economy was in imminent danger of collapsing. “The entire business community cares about a tax reform. And yet it is very clear today a tax reform bill needs to be set aside until the DREAMers are taken care of,” was the response from Microsoft’s president Brad Smith in September. For the record, Microsoft employs exactly 39 DACA beneficiaries out of its U.S. work force of more than 61,000.
But at least we can expect a more sober response from the folks who run (or have run) our national defense system, right? Wrong. In an op-ed published in The New York Times, Robert Gates, who served as Secretary of Defense under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, warns that terminating DACA is a threat to national security. “More than 800 so-called Dreamers… are now serving in the armed forces,” writes Gates. That’s 800 out of 2,248,000 men and women currently serving in our uniformed armed services – 1,430,000 on active duty, and another 818,000 in the reserves. Put another way, DACA beneficiaries account for about 3 out of every 10,000 people now serving in the military.
Gates cites the alarming findings of a recent forum conducted by top military experts that concluded that 71 percent of young adults in the United States are physically, behaviorally, or educationally unfit to serve in the military. If the assessment of these experts is true (and I certainly do not have the credentials to challenge their conclusions), then we have an urgent national problem that needs to be addressed. But it seems unlikely that DACA recipients, who have spent most of their lives in this country and presumably suffer from the same physical, behavior, and educational deficiencies as their native-born peers, are the answer. Nor, is any nation well-served by turning to immigration as a means of recruiting what is essentially a mercenary force – just ask the Roman Empire.
Much like Brad Smith and others in the high tech industry, who seem to believe that our immigration system owes them the exact workers, with the exact skills and qualifications they are seeking, exactly when they want them, a similar attitude seems to be developing in the military. Seventy-one percent of military-age Americans may not be fit to serve in the armed forces right now. But that does not mean that they can’t be turned into fit soldiers, sailors, airmen, and leather necks. Turning citizens (of various degrees of fitness) into soldiers is exactly what the U.S. military has done throughout our history, to the benefit of those who served and the nation.
There are no easy fixes to complex problems. Not only aren’t amnesty and mass immigration quick fixes to any societal ills, in the long run they will likely make the problems worse.