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Latina Lista: News from the Latinx perspective > Columns & Features > American Dreams > Report cites future source of growth for military recruits can only be found among immigrant population

Report cites future source of growth for military recruits can only be found among immigrant population

LatinaLista — Undocumented immigrants may be used as the proverbial “whipping boy” by legislators intent on cleansing the country of their presence, but if the U.S. military has their way undocumented immigrants would be the backbone of tomorrow’s military.

A military naturalization ceremony, July 2010. Photo by NOWCastSA/Flickr (Creative Commons)

A report titled, Non-Citizens in the Enlisted U.S. Military, found that rates are much higher for non-citizen soldiers to stay in the service than their citizen counterparts, regardless of gender or demographic differences.

Looking at attrition rates, the report’s authors found that after 3 months of active service, 8.2 percent of citizen enlistees have been discharged while only 4 percent of non-citizens.

At the three-year mark, 28 percent of citizens have left before completing initial service obligations while the washout rate for non-citizens remains significantly lower, at 16 percent. And the disparity widens by the four-year mark, with 32 percent of citizen recruits having been discharged versus only 18 percent of non-citizen accessions.

Since 911, the armed forces have enlisted nearly 70,000 non-citizens. Contrary to what is believed, non-citizens can enlist if they hold legal permanent resident status, have education equivalent to a high school diploma and can speak acceptable English. In 2002, President George W. Bush signed an executive order that allowed any non-citizen recruit to apply for US citizenship after just serving one day of honorable service during a time of war, including the current conflict in Afghanistan. Before the executive order, non-citizen service members had to serve for three years before applying for citizenship.

Because of several factors, the report’s authors say it would be to the benefit of the military to aggressively recruit among the current potential pool of eligible non-citizens, about 1.2 million, who are ages 18 to 29.

“…given declining U.S. fertility rates, “the only source of net growth in the U.S. recruiting-age population is projected to be immigration” in coming decades.…relative to citizen recruits, non-citizen recruits generally have a stronger attachment to serving the United States, which they now consider to be ‘their country,’ and [they] have a better work ethic,” wrote researchers Molly F. McIntosh and Seema Sayala.

Though the study doesn’t address the DREAM Act, which would grant undocumented students permanent resident status if they either serve in the military for two years or attended college for two years, the bill is favored among defense personnel.

Defense officials support the bill, citing history back to the Revolutionary War of non-citizens gaining citizenship through service. Almost half of Army enlistees in the 1840s were non-citizens and more than 660,000 veterans became naturalized citizens from 1862 through 2000.

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