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Military Reviewing Ban On Applicants With Undocumented Dependents

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Military Reviewing Bar On Applicants With Undocumented Dependents

The Pentagon is reviewing policies that prevent United States citizens from enlisting in various Armed Services if they have dependents who are in the country illegally.

After Fronteras Desk reported last month that some branches of the military were barring otherwise eligible applicants who have unauthorized immigrant spouses and children, more than 30 members of Congress wrote to military leaders asking for clarification about enlistment policies.

In a letter addressed to Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.), who co-authored the letter along with Mike Coffman (R-Colo.), U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Thomas Seamands wrote, “The Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness has initiated a policy review in this area, in coordination with all the Military Services.“

Seamands wrote in his letter that the military will likely issue a final reply within 60 days.

The Department of Defense has no blanket enlistment policies regarding applicants with unauthorized immigrant family members, according to an agency spokesman. Instead, individual branches have established such policies.

The Navy first changed its policy in 2009 to require applicants prove their dependents are in the country legally.

Since 2011, the Marine Corps' enlistment manual has read that applicants "will not be enlisted if any dependent is an undocumented illegal alien."

In a statement, USMC Gunnery Sgt. Matthew Shelato wrote that recruiters interview applicants in accordance with this policy. 

"This policy ensures we effectively accomplish our recruiting mission and frames our recruiting standards so MCRC maintains a quality force," Shelato said.

The Army does not have a formal written policy in this area, but a spokeswoman told Fronteras Desk that the Army does not allow applicants with undocumented dependents to enlist.

Jude Joffe-Block was a senior field correspondent at KJZZ from 2010 to 2017.