From the archive, originally posted by: [ spectre ]
Immigration bill offers a military path to US dream
By Bryan Bender, Globe Staff | June 16, 2007
WASHINGTON — A little-noticed provision in the proposed immigration
bill would grant instant legal status and ultimately full citizenship
to illegal immigrants if they enlist in the US military, an idea the
Pentagon and military analysts say would boost the Pentagon’s flagging
efforts to find and recruit qualified soldiers.
The Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act, or DREAM
Act, is part of the stalled package of proposals that many in Congress
are seeking to resurrect. The proposal, applicable to an estimated
750,000 undocumented residents of military age, stipulates that those
who arrived in the United States before age 16, graduated from high
school, and meet other qualifications could immediately enter the path
to citizenship in exchange for at least two years’ service in the
Though the overall immigration bill was sidetracked earlier this month
amid bitter infighting, the prospect of using military service as one
pathway to citizenship appeals both to lawmakers who side with
immigration rights advocates and those who want tougher immigration
laws and tighter borders.
The DREAM Act is among a series of proposals that make up the
immigration bill, the subject of high-stakes negotiations between
President Bush and congressional lawmakers from both parties.
Proponents urged Bush to use his influence to get it passed, and the
president predicted the controversial changes would succeed, despite
lingering opposition from some in his own party.
Bill Carr, the Pentagon’s acting deputy undersecretary of defense for
military personnel policy, said the measure should become law because
it would be “good for readiness” — particularly at a time when the
military, under pressure from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, is
struggling to attract high-quality recruits. At the same time, the
Army and Marine Corps want to increase their ranks by nearly 100,000
over the next five years.
The prospect of recruiting foreigners to defend the United States has
been a charged issue in the past. The Pentagon, for example, has
opposed several proposals from leading defense specialists to recruit
troops overseas — a move critics liken to hiring mercenaries.
Using the military service option for select illegal immigrants,
however, appears to have widespread support as one way to deal with
the burgeoning illegal immigration problem.
There are currently about 35,000 non citizens serving in the US
military and about 8,000 join each year to take advantage of an
accelerated path to citizenship, according to Pentagon statistics. The
government wants to further accelerate the process; about 4,000
immigrants serving in uniform became citizens in 2005, compared with
750 in 2001.
Under current law, only citizens and non citizens who are legal
residents and hold green cards qualify to serve in the armed forces.
By allowing undocumented residents to serve, the DREAM Act would make
hundreds of thousands more young people eligible.
Those who enlist under the provision would become eligible for a so-
called Z visa, granting them probationary, or conditional, status as a
legal resident — the first step toward full citizenship. Upon
enlistment they would also become eligible for federal student loans
and other benefits they are currently denied as undocumented
A summary of the provision, a version of which was first introduced in
Congress in 2001 but never gained momentum, said that among those who
would qualify for military service are high school graduates who are
“honor roll students, star athletes, talented artists, aspiring
teachers, and doctors.”
“The DREAM Act provisions would enable a group of highly qualified,
ambitious young people to contribute to our society by pursuing higher
education or serving in the US Army,” the summary adds.
The pool of qualified young people would be significant: The
government estimates that there are at least 750,000 undocumented
youths of military age in the United States. Only some of them would
meet the standards of the DREAM Act, but even 10 percent would equal a
typical full year’s worth of new recruits.
The Migration Policy Institute, a Washington think tank, estimates
that as many as 280,000 illegal immigrants between 18 and 24 would
qualify for the program.
“A significant share . . . may join the military as it offers college
tuition and job training benefits, as well as for patriotic reasons,”
according to a policy paper about the issue drafted by the institute.
Choosing military service could bring expedited citizenship for family
members of undocumented residents, according to the institute.
“It’s a substantial pool of people and I think it’s crazy we are not
tapping it,” said Max Boot, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign
Relations. Boot has previously suggested the United States go a step
further by recruiting foreigners overseas to serve in the military.
Josh Bernstein , director of federal policy at the National
Immigration Law Center, which advocates for low-income immigrants,
said most illegal immigrants who would be eligible for military
service under the law come from a demographic group that is already
disposed toward voluntary military service.
For example, a 2004 survey by the government-funded Rand Corporation
found that 45 percent of Hispanic males and 31 percent of Hispanic
females between ages 16 and 21 reported they were “very likely” to
serve on active duty in the next few years, compared with 24 percent
for white men and 10 percent for white women.
“Many of them would naturally otherwise go into it,” said Bernstein.
Because the bill makes eligible only illegal immigrants considered
high quality — high achievers with no criminal histories — the
provision has supporters among even those who oppose the overall
immigration package and criticize it as “amnesty.”
“It is not perfect, but it is far better than some of the ways they
are talking about to grant illegals new status here,” said retired Air
Force Lieutenant General Thomas McInerney , a conservative commentator
and military analyst.
McInerney added that those eligible would probably be higher caliber
than some of the recruits who have joined the Army, because education
and other standards have been lowered in recent years to meet
recruiting goals. And they would be making the ultimate demonstration
of loyalty to their adopted country, he said, putting their lives on
“This is a very talented generation,” added Bernstein. “Many are over
achievers. They are poised to make a great contribution if they are
allowed. And they are not going anywhere.”
Bender can be reached at bender [at] globe [dot] com
A U.S. FOREIGN LEGION?
Create a U.S. foreign legion
A Military Path to Citizenship
By Max Boot and Michael O’Hanlon
America is a land of immigrants. Their spirit of resolve, adventure,
hard work and devotion to an idea bigger than themselves has made this
country great. Whatever one thinks of the immigration debate today,
particularly the problem of illegal immigrants, foreigners have played
a central role in the building of America. Many have done so as
soldiers, among them Baron von Steuben and the Marquis de Lafayette in
the War of Independence.
Now is the time to consider a new chapter in the annals of American
immigration. By inviting foreigners to join the U.S. armed forces in
exchange for a promise of citizenship after a four-year tour of duty,
we could continue to attract some of the world’s most enterprising,
selfless and talented individuals. We could provide a new path toward
assimilation for undocumented immigrants who are already here but lack
the prerequisite for enlistment — a green card. And we could solve
the No. 1 problem facing the Army and Marine Corps: the fact that
these services need to grow to meet current commitments yet cannot
easily do so (absent a draft) given the current recruiting
Not only would immigrants provide a valuable influx of highly
motivated soldiers, they would also address one of America’s key
deficiencies in the battle against Islamist extremists: our lack of
knowledge of the languages and mores in the lands where terrorists
reside. Newly arrived Americans can help us avoid trampling on local
sensitivities and thereby creating more enemies than we eliminate.
Skeptics might point out that in the just-concluded fiscal year, the
military met most of its recruiting and retention goals. But this was
done only by relaxing age and aptitude restrictions, allowing in more
individuals with criminal records, and greatly increasing the number
of recruiters and advertising dollars. Although we generally support
what has been done to date, the logic of these measures cannot be
pushed much further.
The Army chief of staff, Gen. Peter Schoomaker, has just forecast that
U.S. commitments in Iraq may remain at their current level until 2010.
With most soldiers and Marines already on a third or even fourth
deployment since Sept. 11, 2001, it’s doubtful that the all-volunteer
force can withstand such a commitment at its current size. Even if it
could, it’s unfair to ask so much of so few for so long.
Some might object to our proposal on moral grounds, arguing that it is
wrong to rely on “mercenaries” and to use such incentives to get
prospective immigrants to fight. We disagree. For one thing, we
already rely on tens of thousands of real mercenaries: the security
contractors the U.S. government employs from Colombia to Iraq to make
up for lack of troops. Immigrants who enrolled in our armed forces
would be more valuable because they would be under military discipline
and motivated by more than just a paycheck.
As for the risks they would run in Iraq or Afghanistan, these would be
no greater than the risks run by previous generations of newcomers who
built railroads and skyscrapers and toiled in factories and mines. No
one would be forced to serve. No existing immigration quotas would be
reduced. The military avenue to citizenship would be a new option, not
Nativists need not fear that this would lead to a flood of foreigners.
Say we decide to recruit 50,000 foreigners a year for the next three
years. That sounds like a lot, but it represent less than 10 percent
of the total number coming to the United States anyway — and less
than 10 percent of our active-duty armed forces. This would not
radically change the demographics of our society or our military, but
it would make a big difference in the size of the rotation base for
our ongoing missions.
Despite growing anti-Americanism, U.S. citizenship is still one of the
world’s most precious commodities, so there should be no shortage of
volunteers. Since proficiency in English would presumably be important
for those joining the armed forces, we might focus on South Asia,
anglophone Africa, and parts of Latin America, Europe and East Asia
(the Philippines would be a natural recruiting ground) where English
is common as a second language. These regions have more than 2 billion
people, tens of millions of whom reach military age each year.
The problem would not be the size of the likely applicant pool so much
as our ability to vet individuals for their abilities, their
dependability and their commitment. Screening would have to be done to
ensure that would-be terrorists did not gain access to the armed
forces through this program. That might complicate the process of
recruiting from certain countries, especially in the Middle East, but
it would hardly put a huge dent in the likely applicant pool.
Unlike most issues in the immigration debate, the idea of offering
citizenship to foreigners who first join the armed forces should be a
winner for everyone. It is good for immigrants who wish to pursue U.S.
citizenship, which they could not otherwise attain. It is good for a
beleaguered American military that is simply too small for the tasks
it has been handed. And it is good for the country, bringing more
hardworking patriots to our shores. Before the all-volunteer force
breaks, it is high time to consider the idea of such a latter-day
Max Boot is a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and
author of “War Made New: Technology, Warfare, and the Course of
History, 1500 to Today.” Michael O’Hanlon is a senior fellow at the
Brookings Institution and co-author of “Hard Power: The New Politics
of National Security.”
Senior Fellow for National Security Studies
E-mail: mboot [at] cfr [dot] org
Defense policy; defense budget; proliferation; nation-building and
peacekeeping; democracy and human rights; U.S. grand strategy;
national security; military technology; military history; U.S. foreign
policy; terrorism and guerilla warfare; terrorism; media.
Contributing editor, Weekly Standard (current); Editorial Features
Editor, Wall Street Journal (1997-2002); writer and editor, Wall
Street Journal (1994-97); writer and editor, Christian Science Monitor
The Changing Face of Warfare
Host: World Affairs Council of Northern California
Location: San Francisco, CA / Date: Nov 11, 2006
“Acclaimed author and security expert Max Boot explores how
innovations in weaponry and tactics have not only transformed how wars
are fought and won but also have guided the course of human events,
from the formation of the first modern states 500 years ago, to the
collapse of the Soviet Union, and the coming of al-Qaeda. His new
book, War Made New, is a provocative new vision of the rise of the
modern world through the lens of warfare. Boot argues that the past
five centuries of history have been marked not by gradual change in
how we fight but instead by four revolutions in military technology -
and that the nations who have successfully mastered these revolutions
have gained the power to redraw the map of the world. His book
concludes with an examination of what America must do to survive and
prevail in the Information Age.”