The Pentagon says it is revisiting controversial U.S. military enlistment policies that bar applicants with spouses or children living illegally in the U.S.
Both the Marine Corps and Navy follow those policies. Army and Air Force officials say they don't. The Pentagon has started a "policy review in this area, in coordination with all the military services," Maj. Gen. Thomas Seamands, the Army's director of military personnel management, said in a letter Thursday.
Seamands did not describe the purpose of the review in his letter. But he wrote it in response to a Nov. 21 letter from a bipartisan group of 33 congressmen. In their letter, the congressmen raised concerns about the possibility that the government is blocking U.S. citizens from serving in the military. Seamands said officials plan to reply to the congressmen with the results of the Pentagon's review within 60 days.
The Pentagon started the review after the Obama administration issued a policy memo last month that says spouses, children and parents of U.S. military service members and veterans could be eligible for a reprieve from deportation. The memo says certain relatives living illegally in the U.S. are able to receive "parole in place" and remain legally here. Critics have blasted the directive, saying it is part of a series of efforts by the White House to weaken federal immigration enforcement without congressional approval.
U.S. Rep. Luis Guti rrez, an Illinois Democrat and chairman of the Immigration Task Force of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, is among those who have raised objections over military's enlistment policies.
"I have constituents who are serving with distinction in the armed forces whose spouses or parents are under threat of deportation," Guti rrez said through a spokesman Tuesday. "As a policy, it makes no sense and it makes no sense to bar citizens from serving their country because of an undocumented family member. I am glad the Pentagon is taking our bipartisan inquiry seriously."
Last month, Marine Corps and Navy officials cited several reasons for their enlistment policies.
"Our recruiting force screens applicants for mental, physical and moral qualifications," said Maj. Stuart Fugler, a Marine Corps Recruiting Command spokesman. "An applicant with any dependent who illegally resides in the U.S. will not be enlisted because they are breaking the law."
A Navy spokeswoman referred to a national security questionnaire Navy employees must fill out.
"In order to complete that the member must have the proper paperwork for any dependent they may have," said Cmdr. Wendy Snyder, a Navy spokeswoman.