Saturday, January 13, 2007

Should undocumented residents serve in the U.S. Military?

As the war in Iraq continues to spin out of control, it is often noted that the U.S. Armed Forces are having trouble recruiting new volunteers to fill the ranks who will provide the personnel for President Bush's planned "surge." Despite recruiting shortfalls, Recruiters in Chicago and other cities across the nation have been turning away otherwise qualified volunteers for one reason: they are undocumented residents of the U.S.

Before igniting the cries of "foul!" from the nativist minority reading this blog, I need to point out that on July 3, 2002, President Bush authorized an expedited citizenship process for documented residents who are serving in the armed forces regardless of their length of residency (via Section 329 of the Immigration and Nationality Act).

So far, this seems pretty straightforward: if you're undocumented, you can't serve. However, President Bush's order "also said undocumented immigrants could serve and apply for expedited citizenship, according to Margaret Stock, an immigration lawyer and associate professor at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point." In this case, Recruiters know their guidelines, not the law, and they are inadvertently turning away potential eligible recruits.

There is no clear consensus on how the undocumented should be handled, however. Many in the DOD are adamant that a person must be a permanent legal resident to join the military, but that statutes on the books indicate that give the secretaries of each military branch the right to wave the residency requirement.

In all, the confusion surrounding the undocumented and military service points to the broader inconsistencies that the U.S. has toward their undocumented residents: when we need them, we have no problem using them. This is evidenced in our current policy on the undocumented in the even the President authorizes a draft. "An order signed by President Bush on July 3, 2002, requires undocumented immigrants to register for the Selective Service. If the draft was reinstated -- the Selective Service recently announced a comprehensive "readiness exercise" of its system, despite denials the agency is gearing up for a draft -- military services could draft undocumented immigrants. " Any foreigner who is drafted is allowed the right to refuse, but they then have to leave the country permanently and are banned from getting U.S. citizenship.

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