Defense Secretary said Thursday that “Dreamers” serving in the military will not be deported, even if the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program expires.
“We would always stand by one of our people,” Mattis said, according to CNN.
Matts said the protections apply to those who benefit from the program who are on active duty, in the active reserves, waiting to go to boot camp and veterans who left with an honorable discharge.
An exception would reportedly be made if a service member committed a serious felony or if a federal judge signed a final deportation order.
“I’ll just tell you that someone who is on active duty, in the reserves … they are not subject to deportation unless they’ve committed a felony or a federal judge has ordered them out for some reason, in which case we have to obey the court order,” Mattis said.
The Trump administration announced last year it was rescinding DACA, an Obama-era program that allows certain immigrants brought into the country illegally as children to live and work in the U.S. without fear of deportation. It also allows them to serve in the military.
About 800 DACA recipients are now enrolled in the armed forces, according to Reuters.
The program is set to expire March 5, and is a cornerstone of ongoing immigration negotiations in Congress.
Senate Majority Leader (R-Ky.) has said he will bring a DACA bill to the Senate floor, and House Democrats are pressuring Speaker (R-Wis.) to agree to do the same.
House Minority Leader (D-Calif.) on Wednesday delivered an eight-hour speech in support of DACA, and said she will oppose a spending bill because it does not include an immigration fix.