Army Offers Citizenship for Enlisting
The Army is beginning a pilot program to allow skilled green card holders to enlist and get a fast-track to citizenship, Julia Preston reports on the front page of today’s NYT.
Stretched thin in Afghanistan and Iraq, the American military will begin recruiting skilled immigrants who are living in this country with temporary visas, offering them the chance to become United States citizens in as little as six months.
Immigrants who are permanent residents, with documents commonly known as green cards, have long been eligible to enlist. But the new effort, for the first time since the Vietnam War, will open the armed forces to temporary immigrants if they have lived in the United States for a minimum of two years, according to military officials familiar with the plan.
Recruiters expect that the temporary immigrants will have more education, foreign language skills and professional expertise than many Americans who enlist, helping the military to fill shortages in medical care, language interpretation and field intelligence analysis.
The program will begin small — limited to 1,000 enlistees nationwide in its first year, most for the Army and some for other branches. If the pilot program succeeds as Pentagon officials anticipate, it will expand for all branches of the military. For the Army, it could eventually provide as many as 14,000 volunteers a year, or about one in six recruits.
This makes sense on a lot of levels. It provides skilled labor to the military services and rewards those who have served their new country with citizenship, which seems perfectly just.
I worry somewhat, though, about turning the United States military into a foreign legion with mercenary characteristics. We’re already managed to divorce citizenship and service and war and pain for most Americans; furthering those trends is not something I look forward to.
One wonders whether the military will take the place the schools once did of providing the heat to the melting pot, naturally assimilating new immigrants. It may be that the end result is that we’ll create a large class of soldier-citizens through this process. Of course that, too, comes with the risk of further alienating the military from the society on a values level.