The Trump administration is reportedly seeking to end important programs that protect the family members of active duty service members and veterans from deportation.
NPR reports that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services may scale back or terminate a program called Parole-in-Place (PIP) for military family members. The PIP program provides some spouses and dependents of active duty members and veterans temporary protection from deportation and work authorization while they seek immigration status.
Other media reports indicate that the Trump administration also wants to cut back Deferred Action, a related program for military family members that provides some people with temporary protection from deportation.
These programs have been popular among veterans and their families, although rejections have increased under the Trump administration. If plans to eliminate the programs proceed, more members of the U.S. military will be left wondering if their families at home are in jeopardy of immigration enforcement.
Before PIP and Deferred Action were available, military families were all too often left stranded by the immigration system.
For example, Staff Sergeant Alex Jimenez, a soldier in the United States Army, applied for a green card for his wife Yaderlin before he was deployed to Iraq; instead, she was threatened with deportation. While she was in deportation proceedings, Staff Sergeant Jimenez went missing in 2007 after his unit was ambushed by insurgents in Iraq. Ultimately, he gave his life in service of this country. Yaderlin faced deportation with no ability to return to the United States. She was only able to remain due to the extraordinary intervention of senior government officials, including then Senator John Kerry.
A system that depends on this type of case-by-case intervention does not provide active duty service members and veterans with confidence that the law will protect their families.
Most military commanders will report that one of the greatest leadership challenges they face on an overseas deployment is ensuring that troops stay focused on the mission at hand, rather than on problems back home. This is why the military makes many resources available to support military families and why good leaders make every effort to promote family resilience.
If the Trump administration removes the protections provided by PIP and Deferred Action for military families, it could frustrate readiness by leaving no recourse from the threat of deportation. This will make it much more difficult for troops with undocumented family members to focus on their missions.
In an era where the services are reporting increasing difficulties with meeting recruitment targets, threatening the families of U.S. military members with deportation is especially counterproductive. This is one attack among several recently made against immigrant soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines. By dishonoring service members and veterans with immigrant families, the Trump administration tells prospective recruits that their service will not be valued by the nation.