Hundreds of thousands of foreigners have served in the U.S. military in every one of our wars, including the current War on Terror.
So I find it disheartening to learn about huge roadblocks thrown in the path to citizenship for legal immigrants recruited into the armed services.
What's worse is many are having enlistment contracts canceled or are being discharged and given no clear reason for the action. This effectively kills their opportunity to become citizens, something recruiters promised when they enlisted. Plus it leaves the families that have committed to military life — hardly a walk in the park — up in the air over their futures.
In case anyone is questioning how many have served and earned citizenship, here are some numbers produced by the Bipartisan Policy Center:
Civil War: 20% of Union soldiers were foreign born, largely of German or Irish origin. Union Maj. Gen. Franz Siegel was a German immigrant.
World War I: 500,000 immigrants served in the military — approximately 18% of all soldiers. After the war, 192,000 immigrant veterans were awarded citizenship.
World War II: Over 100,000 noncitizens who served in our armed forces became naturalized citizens for their service. An article in Smithsonian Magazine said that number could be as high as 300,000.
Korean War: 31,000 foreign-born soldiers became naturalized citizens.
We now come to the War on Terror. According to Army TImes, President George W. Bush ordered “expedited naturalization” for immigrant soldiers after 9/11 to swell military ranks. Nearly 110,000 gained citizenship after serving in our military following 9/11, according to the Defense Department.
In 2009, the Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest program, MAVNI, was created. In particular, we sought those with medical experience or those who were proficient in languages including Korean, Farsi, Pashto, Kurdish or Russian.
Army Times said more than 5,000 immigrants were recruited into the program in 2016, and an estimated 10,000 are currently serving.
After the Obama administration added DACA recipients — children brought to the U.S. illegally by their parents — to the eligible MAVNI list, conservatives pushed back. So the military added more security clearances for recruits to pass before heading to boot camp.
Look, you’ll get no argument from me about the need to properly vet these recruits to make sure we're not letting foxes into our hen house.
The Trump administration added more requirements, creating a serious backlog and extending the vetting process for some to years. This delays entry to boot camp, and long delays cause automatic cancellation of contracts.
Last fall, more than 500 recruits still in the enlistment process had their contracts canceled. That kills their chance to become citizens because they never earn service credit.
If someone gets an unfavorable security clearance, boot 'em. However, it's not fair to keep those whom we recruited in limbo due to bureaucratic inefficiency or deliberate foot-dragging.
Making matters worse, a number of immigrant veterans, many who served in combat, are being deported despite a policy requiring special consideration be given to their military service. A report from the General Accounting Office stated Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) not only does not adhere to the policy requiring a service record review before deporting veterans, it also doesn’t track how many of them are caught or ultimately deported. Veterans groups report this has affected hundreds, if not thousands. That's anti-immigrant politics and it stinks.
It’s tIme to ask congressional Democrats and Republicans how they can continue to sit on their hands and do nothing to fix immigration policies knowing many decent, well-intentioned people are being hurt by their inaction.
Michele Murphy is a freelance writer from Avon Lake. Email questions here.