Immigration

America's Broken Immigration System is Kneecapping the Military

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Military.Immigrants
www.csmonitor.com

America's hopelessly gridlocked immigration system is undermining more than its national economy—it's also kneecapping its national security.

The reason behind these twin failures is the same: the Rushmore-sized obstacles our immigration system creates in the recruitment of qualified foreigners. But when it comes to military recruitment, the irony is that while previous presidents have used their statutory authority to draft immigrants against their will, President Obama hasn't used his to recruit even willing immigrants, something he could change via the executive initiative on immigration he's planning to unveil as soon as he grows a spine.

Although the military downplays its recruitment difficulties, the reality is that it is having a hard time meeting its annual goals, and the National Guard and ROTC are already facing a recruitment crunch. The reason is that there aren't enough Americans who meet the military's basic qualifications—and the military can't recruit many immigrants who do.

The military's target cohort of 17- to 24-year-olds is steadily shrinking, thanks to an aging population. Making matters worse, 70 percent of this group fails the military's basic fitness or behavioral criteria. Why? Because of rising obesity, lack of a high-school diploma, felony convictions, and drug use—not to mention body piercings (think large holes in the earlobe and visible tattoos that soldiers are barred from having).

There would be an easy fix if the army could freely recruit immigrants, who tend to have better educational qualifications, score higher on army recruitment tests, and have fewer convictions (or tattoos) as well as a lower attrition rate after recruitment, just as it has done in the past. But it can't.

The foreign born composed half of all military recruits in the 1840s, and about 20 percent of the 1.5 million service members during the Civil War. Indeed, immigrants—largely German and Irish men—arriving to American shores were almost instantly handed their entry papers—along with the draft—and sent off to fight in the Union Army. Likewise, half a million foreign-born draftees from 46 countries—constituting about 10 percent of U.S. troops—served in World War I, with survivors getting automatic naturalization.

But immigrant participation in the U.S. military has now dropped to less than 4 percent, likely the lowest it's ever been. And the main reason is not that immigrants don't want to enlist. It is that they are in a Catch 22: They can't enlist till they get a green card, thanks to a 2006 law. But getting a green card can take decades, by which time they are too old to serve.

Prior to 2006, during a war, all branches of the armed services – Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, and Air Force—could recruit foreigners residing legally in the United States, regardless of whether they had green cards or not, and offer them naturalization or citizenship. This meant that foreigners who enrolled got an expedited route to citizenship without having to obtain green cards first, something that civilians have to do. During peacetime, however, only the Marine Corps and Navy could recruit foreigners—but without being able to offer naturalization. The other branches weren't allowed even that much.

This wasn't a perfect system from the military's point of view, because it hampered its ability to offer foreigners an attractive enough deal during peacetime, but it at least maximized the wartime recruitment pool.

In 2006, irked by the lack of uniformity in the recruitment rules among all the branches, Congress, without any cost-benefit analysis or hearings, passed a new law that Margaret Stock, a veteran and a leading expert on immigration and national security law who advises the military on foreign recruitment, rightly casts as very ill-advised. The law barred all branches from enrolling immigrants without a green card at any time, peace or war, except when the military's service secretary deemed it was in the "vital national interest" to do so. Nor could the military sponsor these foreigners for green cards, putting it at a competitive disadvantage compared to the private sector, which can do so.

Now, theoretically, the Obama administration could make generous use of the "vital national interest" provision, especially since America is still at war, to help military recruitment. President Obama could allow immigrants to serve and naturalize by using his wartime authority under Section 329 of the Immigration and Nationalization Act, something that President Bush did for anyone who had served honorably for even a single day, even illegal immigrants. But the Obama administration hasn't done any of this, save for a small program called MAVNI (Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest) that Stock developed for the Army.

Under this program, for which Stock received a MacArthur genius grant, the Army, using its administrative authority, can recruit foreigners living in the country legally, and then hand them citizenship as soon as they complete boot camp. The program has been a huge hit. It has allowed the Army to fill shortages of personnel in key areas such as linguists, engineers, and cyber security technicians. Meanwhile, it has offered a way out to foreigners stuck in the green card morass—which is why 16,000 of them, many from top-notch universities, apply every year for the 1,500 available slots.

Yes, that's right: Just 1,500 available slots. And there's absolutely no legal reason why the Pentagon couldn't expand the program or allow other military branches to create their own similar programs. "The 1,500-cap is completely arbitrary," Stock insists.

Also, instead of waiting for Congress to hand permanent legal status to 1.75 million DACAs (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals)—folks against whom deportation action has been deferred for two years because they were brought to the country illegally as minors—the Obama administration, just like the Bush administration, could use its legal authority to allow them to enlist. This would give the military access to a very large and high-quality pool of people who have already undergone background checks, notes Stock. And it would give these people a way to become naturalized.

But instead of creatively exploring such options, the Obama administration is just sitting around pointing fingers at Congress for failing to fix the country's dysfunctional immigration system.

The administration has been strongly hinting at executive action on immigration yet again. That this has taken it six years to get to this stage bespeaks of a pretty deep dysfunction of its own, however.

This column was originally published in The Week. An archive of Dalmia's columns at The Week is here.

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  1. Didn’t we laugh at this article last week?

    1. I believe you are right, this is the second time Ms. Dalmia has advanced this ridiculous meme. At this very moment, America is summarily firing both officers and enlisted men. Just read Foreign Policy Magazine or the Military Times.

      She has to be willfully ignorant of this subject.

      1. Just because the military is sending folks packing on the back end doesn’t mean it doesn’t have recruiting issues on the front. We don’t simply shut down basic training during a drawdown.

        1. No. But we reduce the size and frequency of incoming recruit cycles.

          1. yes, we tweak assession numbers (I’m involved in this). My point was re: questioning a recruiting challenge in the midst of a drawdown. Laymen see it as a paradox when it’s not.

            1. “All four active services met or exceeded their numerical accession goals for fiscal 2014 through July” -DOD

              This is from an email in my .mil email this morning. The military is canning people, the economy sucks, there is no shortages.

  2. Nuts

    http://thinkprogress.org/justi…..obamacare/

    Federal Appeals Court Withdraws Decision Defunding Obamacare

    1. Wow, every time I visit a new leftist site and check out the comments, I have even less faith in the power of rational argument.

      1. Well you aren’t seeing rational arguments in such commentariats

  3. We obviously need a dictator so Shikha can get every pony she ever wanted.

    1. Have a heart, it’s not easy finding a live-in domestic who’ll take 5 bucks a week.

  4. That does indeed make a lot of sense dude.

    http://www.Crypt-Anon.tk

  5. muh immugruntz

  6. I believe this is the second time Ms. Dalmia has advanced this ridiculous meme. At this very moment, America is summarily firing both officers and enlisted men. Just read Foreign Policy Magazine or the Military Times.

    She has to be willfully ignorant of this subject.

    1. Unless you want a top-heavy or bottom-heavy force it’s not hard to comprehend why you could be kicking people out at the same time you’re complaining about a recruitment crunch.

  7. This is assuming we want to keep the military at its present size. Do we really?

    1. Before cutting the military, there needs to be a change in national strategy. Cutting before deciding to use them less means even more expense.

  8. Credit where credit’s due, at least this time she didn’t pull that elitist crap by calling the military ‘human cannon fodder’ again.

    I’ll ignore the fact that the U.S. military is actually cutting personal. Question in regards to history: have long term armies made up of foreign volunteers/mercenaries ever worked out? Didn’t help Carthage in the long run. The Hessians didn’t work out that well for the British, and neither did late Roman attempts to absorb the Vandals and Goths through the military. Gurkhas and the French Foreign Legion worked out pretty well (except for all those rebellions) but those were the product of colonial possessions.

    1. Didn’t help Carthage in the long run. The Hessians didn’t work out that well for the British, and neither did late Roman attempts to absorb the Vandals and Goths through the military.

      1. Re: Jensen,

        Didn’t help Carthage in the long run. The Hessians didn’t work out that well for the British, and neither did late Roman attempts to absorb the Vandals and Goths through the military.

        It did help the Byzantines keep their empire for 1,000 years…

        1. That’s true, I forgot about the Byzantines. Fast-track Viking citizenship!

          1. The Byzantines got some help from Venice too. What’s interesting in their story is that they were bankrupt most of the time.

    2. Other bad examples to toss in the pile: the Hetman under the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, and the Janissaries under the Ottomans.

      1. Weren’t the Janissaries generally slaves? The Egyptian Mamluk armies were slaves.

        Made it easy when it came time to disarm and cut costs – just kill a few thousand of them.

        1. Janissaries are complex. They were a slave army, but they had their own power base and privileges in the Ottoman system (they were allowed to retire and were paid a state pension for example).

        2. Erm… you might want to read up on the Mamluk sultanate and the Auspicious Incident.

        3. I was thinking more generally in terms of foreigner-based armies.

    3. Machiavelli railed against mercenaries fighting the city-states and how it impeded Italian unity.

      So yes, it’s limited looks like.

      1. Yeah he rips on them pretty hard in Discourses on Livy. Although, based on the idiocy of the modern Italian state unity may have been a bad idea. But what has Machiavelli done for us lately?

        1. Curious. What do you mean by ‘idiocy’?

  9. But getting a green card can take decades, by which time they are too old to serve.

    Or never, if you don’t happen to have immediate family who are already American citizens and can sponsor you. If you do, it could still take you decades to get a green card.

    The American immigration system is not designed to receive immigrants but to discourage them from coming legally, on purpose. The reason is because legal immigrants will NOT vote until they become citizens unless they want to run the risk of being deported. Whereas illegal immigrants WILL vote because they already run that risk every day regardless of what they do (hence the resistance to Voter ID laws.) In the end, the government and politicians do NOT want to streamline the immigration system because the current system is giving them legions of willing voters.

    1. If you have what are called “Immediate Relatives” under the INA, then a greencard is immediately available once the application process is complete. It doesn’t take decades. On average, it ranges between 4-12 months, depending on the type of initial petition, and also may depend on whether the beneficiary has to consular process. Fortunately, with the new I-601 Waivers, the process has been streamlined somewhat.

      While the current system has some advantages for the current crop of politicians, I would think the Dems would favor a huge surge of new citizens, since they (along with the media, and not without the help of so much Republican rhetoric) have so effectively demonized the Republicans in the eyes of low information immigrants.

      1. “While the current system has some advantages for the current crop of politicians, I would think the Dems would favor a huge surge of new citizens, since they (along with the media, and not without the help of so much Republican rhetoric) have so effectively demonized the Republicans in the eyes of low information immigrants.”

        Of course… it’s all the fault of Dems and the media. Republicans have done nothing to create their own image.

        1. Thanks for quoting me, and then specifically arguing against what I didn’t’ say.

          From my post, with the relevant passage capitalized for the reading impaired:

          “… the Dems would favor a huge surge of new citizens, since they (along with the media, AND NOT WITHOUT THE HELP OF SO MUCH REPUBLICAN REHETORIC) have so effectively demonized the Republicans…”

          So tell me again where I said the Republicans had done nothing to create their own image.

  10. Those who want to disband the American military

    Citation needed

  11. punk fashions ? tattoos, gauges for enlarged earlobes

    The word you are looking for is “hipster”. Or “Axe”.

    1. Shikha Daimia supporting the “Invite The World, Invade The World” policy.

  12. Or we could just stop inventing needs for human cannon fodder. Like screaming “ISOLATIONIST” at anyone who suggests we don’t immediately invade ISIS.

    1. But $10/gallon gasoline if we don’t go in there with 300,000 marines and wipe them off the planet. You don’t want $10/gallon gasoline, do you?

      1. Securing shipping routes and stabilizing petroleum-rich countries doesn’t take 300,000 Marines, but you go right on with your histrionics.

        1. It probably takes a hundred times that. Maybe more. Iraq isn’t stable. Haven’t we been there over a decade now? Libya isn’t stable. We actually assisted in destabilizing that country. There is a nice YouTube video of “insurgents” swimming at the pool of the US Embassy that they are now occupying. Syria isn’t stable because we gave ISIS equipment and weapons to fight Assad. And all for the low cost of just a few trillion dollars (some of which was borrowed from China). More of it paid for through inflation. And let’s not forget all the innocent people killed as a result of such policies.

  13. my buddy’s sister-in-law makes $64 /hr on the computer . She has been out of work for eight months but last month her paycheck was $17824 just working on the computer for a few hours. navigate to this site…..

    ============ http://www.netjob70.com

  14. “… kill two birds with one stone…”, please, unless you plan to eat said birds, then stop killing them. How about “freeing two birds with one hand”?

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