US: Immigrants with language skills become citizens in six months - if they enlist

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at
Tue Feb 24 19:31:59 UTC 2009

Immigrants become citizens in six months - if they enlist

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The American military has launched a pilot program to recruit skilled,
so-called temporary immigrants who have been in the country at least
two years. Recruiters anticipate that the new recruits will have more
education and language skills than most Americans who enlist. In
return for their service, the military will speed up the process for
them to receive U.S. citizenship - some recruits will be able to
become U.S. citizens in as little as six months.

There are two sides to this coin of news: one good, and one
depressing. The good news is that it may help both the Army and
temporary immigrants. The policy could help the Army get access to
desperately needed specialists, and it could also help temporary
immigrants circumvent our nation's broken immigration system. The
sight of temporary immigrants pitching in to help this country could
also help soothe some of the many bruises that this country is
sporting from the devastating immigration battles of the past several

That last part is important, for many have already greeted this news
with angry shouts and loud jeers. We have little doubt that the
temporary immigrants who are hired to fill shortages in medical care,
field intelligence and language translation will execute their jobs
with honor, and that they will make this country proud to accept them
as citizens, but some people will clearly need to see living proof.
Army officials told us that they don't have any anecdotes from
soldiers or officers regarding the pilot program, but there are
responses aplenty on military Internet Web sites, and they can be
savage. Some claim that the new policy may lead to new influxes of
immigrants. Others question whether or not these new immigrants can be
loyal to the United States.

Of course the policy won't lead to an influx of new immigrants; people
tend to migrate based on economic decisions, not because they're eager
to join someone else's military. As for the loyalty charge, the Army
would do well to remember the example set by both African Americans
and Japanese Americans earlier last century. Both of these groups had
their loyalty to the United States questioned when they participated
in the armed services. Both groups used the charge as inspiration to
form some of the most highly decorated military units this country has

Also, we would certainly trust new immigrants to protect our country
before we trusted the other group that recruiters have turned to in an
effort to fill the ranks: convicted felons.

Now to the flip side of the coin. The reason why the news of this
program is depressing is because it proves how badly America has been
educating its own citizens. How sad is it that so few Americans speak
Arabic? How pitiful are we as a nation to not have enough medical
technicians and intelligence operatives to protect us? These are
skills that enough Americans could have learned if they had an
accessible and functioning educational system in which to learn them.
Instead, we have to look outward, searching for people who may have
learned what is necessary to keep us safe. It may be a boon for these
new immigrants, but it's an indictment of Americans.

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