WASHINGTON -- A group of young undocumented immigrants ramped up a push this week for the ability to join the military, with about 20 visiting recruiting offices on Thursday to ask about enlistment.
Undocumented immigrants are barred from enlisting. But these young people all came to the United States as children and are now trying to gain legal status. Under a recent directive called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals they are allowed to work -- now they want President Barack Obama to allow that work to be in the military.
The first groups visited recruiting offices in New York and Hanford, Calif., on Thursday, and others will do the same in other cities in the coming weeks, organized by advocacy groups Dream Action Coalition and Let Us Serve.
"For myself, I live in New York City and after 9/11, it was very personal for me," said César Vargas, 28, executive director of the Dream Action Coalition and one of the undocumented immigrants who visited the New York recruiting office. "For me, it was really about serving my country and to really send a message to a lot of people who oppose the Dream Act or immigration, for them to see who we are, that we are as American as they are."
Michelle Rodriguez, 26, is also hoping to enlist. She came to the United States from Mexico 21 years ago, and is now earning her bachelor's degree with hopes of attending nursing school. She decided after the Sept. 11 attacks that she wanted to join the military, and her goal is toy become a nurse in the Marines. It would be possible to serve in the military with a U-Visa, she said, but she wants to join as soon as she can.
"It would mean fulfilling one of my dreams. It's one of my dreams to be able to serve," she said. "I think I have what it takes to be a Marine."