Enlisting Could Be Fast Track to Citizenship

Measure in Senate dangles possible citizenship to immigrants who fight in Iraq.

ByABC News via logo
September 23, 2007, 8:39 AM

Sept. 23, 2007 — -- The Senate will debate a proposal this week billed by some as a creative solution to two of the nation's hot-button issues -- immigration and the Iraq war.

If passed, the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act promises a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants who volunteer for military service.

"If they'll serve in the military for two years, or they'll complete two years of college, we can put them on a path to legal status," said Sen. Richard Durbin D-Ill.

The DREAM act has bipartisan support. On the Republican side, it's one of the few war-related measures Sens. John McCain and Chuck Hagel agree on. And the Democratic sponsors include Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

The measure comes up for debate this week, as part of the massive Defense Reauthorization Bill. Some estimate about 360,000 illegal immigrants with high school diplomas and clean criminal records would be eligible.

The proposal presents answer for the military, which has had recruitment problems following a deadly and drawn out war in Iraq.

However, some immigration reform advocates believe DREAM would take advantage of the people who have the fewest options in life.

"I characterize it as a defector draft," said Jose Lara, an immigration reform advocate.

Currently, more than 40,000 so-called green-card soldiers serve in Iraq. They are military personnel who are permanent legal residents of the United States, but not citizens.