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question everything Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Sep-16-09 12:48 PM
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Military offers a path to citizenship,0,2130477.story

Military offers a path to citizenship

Immigrants without a green card but who have specific language or medical skills get a big incentive to enlist. The Army has recruited more than 100 people in Los Angeles under the pilot program.

By Alexandra Zavis

September 16, 2009

Looking more like a student than a soldier, the young Indian in jeans and a T-shirt snapped his heels together and stood at attention in front of an American flag. He raised his right hand and pledged to defend the United States against all enemies. The enlistment ceremony earlier this month at a military center near Los Angeles International Airport took less than five minutes. With that, he became the 101st person in Los Angeles to join the Army under a program that significantly increases the number of immigrants eligible to serve.

Until recently, the 25-year-old with a master's degree from Purdue University in Indiana would not have been permitted to sign up. He had come to the U.S. on a student visa, and only citizens or permanent residents who carry green cards were eligible to join the armed forces. That changed in February when the Army started taking applications from foreigners with specific language and medical skills who are here on temporary visas or as refugees or asylum seekers.

Although all military branches are meeting or exceeding their recruitment goals, they have struggled to find individuals with critical skills needed in Iraq, Afghanistan and beyond, officials said. In exchange for their service, the foreign recruits -- who offer skills it would take years to teach -- get an expedited path to citizenship.

Since the pilot program began in New York, expanding to Los Angeles in May, the foreign recruits have included 34 healthcare professionals and 385 people who speak languages such as Arabic, Polish and Swahili. More than 69% of them have at least a bachelor's degree, compared with just under 10% for the Army as a whole.


The pilot program has raised concerns among some veterans groups and advocates for tighter immigration controls, who worry that the policy shift could pave the way for large numbers of foreigners, including ones who may not have entered the country legally, to join the armed forces. Still, Army officials say they have not encountered the resistance some had anticipated. Defense officials underscore that the program is open only to foreigners who have lived legally in the U.S. for at least two years. Under a wartime statute invoked in 2002, those who serve can apply for citizenship on the first day of active duty. But to continue the program in peacetime would require a change in existing laws. The military has long struggled to compete with the private sector for skilled healthcare workers, officials say.


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hedgehog Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Sep-16-09 12:52 PM
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1. My great uncle came here illegally and rode the rails during the Depression.
He was drafted when the war came, and the Army gave him his citizenship and taught him how to read. (He'd been forced to leave school at a very early age.) He was on training maneuvers before D-Day, broke his leg stepping in a fox hole (one dug by a fox) and ended up with partial disability.
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Captain Hilts Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Sep-16-09 12:57 PM
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2. That's why the Union Army was full of Irish immigrants. That's how my English grandfather...
and British father became citizens in WWI and WWII, respectively.
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