Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens said Wednesday that he wants to see Congress create a path to citizenship for anyone who serves in the military — including immigrants who entered the country illegally as children.
Greitens, a Republican and retired Navy SEAL, made the comments during a visit to Kansas City the day after President Donald Trump moved to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which allows people who entered the country illegally as children to avoid deportation and obtain work permits.
Trump has given Congress six months to pass legislation to address the issue of childhood arrivals before the program, which was enacted by executive action by President Barack Obama, officially ends. The move will affect roughly 800,000 people nationwide, including more than 3,500 in Missouri, according to the American Civil Liberties Union.
“I think that it’s really important for Congress to act,” Greitens said in Kansas City. “And I think as they act we need to make sure we’re balancing our insistence on law and order with compassion. We need to make sure we’re making a distinction between violent felons who are in this country illegally and children who were brought here through no fault of their own, who have grown up here in America.”
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Greitens added that he thinks that “anyone who is willing to take a bullet for this country, anyone who is willing to serve in uniform, should at the end of their military service be given an opportunity to become an American citizen. I think it’s really important that we get that done.”
An estimated 359 DACA recipients joined the U.S. Army in 2016. Trump’s action to rescind the program creates the possibility they will face deportation.
Asked about possible deportations, Greitens again asserted that “if somebody is willing to take a bullet for your freedom ... I believe they deserve a chance to become an American citizen.”
A limited number of DACA recipients enlisted in the military were able to apply for citizenship under the Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest Program, which usually requires legal status, during Obama’s presidency. However, that program was frozen last year over concerns of inadequate vetting.