Monday, May 15, 2006

The American Foreign Legion?

From President Bush's speech tonight:
On a visit to Bethesda Naval Hospital, Laura and I met a wounded Marine named Guadalupe Denogean. Master Gunnery Sergeant Denogean came to the United States from Mexico when he was a boy. He spent his summers picking crops with his family, and then he volunteered for the United States Marine Corps as soon as he was able. During the liberation of Iraq, Master Gunnery Sergeant Denogean was seriously injured. And when asked if he had any requests, he made two: a promotion for the corporal who helped rescue him, and the chance to become an American citizen. And when this brave Marine raised his right hand, and swore an oath to become a citizen of the country he had defended for more than 26 years, I was honored to stand at his side.
This has probably been discussed at great length elsewhere, and undoubtedly will strike some as a dumb question. But before tonight was anyone besides me unaware that U.S. citizenship is not a requirement for military service?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Perhaps the first combat casualty of the war was L. Cpl. Jose Antonio Gutierrez, an illegal immigrant

From CNN:

"Lance Cpl. Jose Antonio Gutierrez, 22, an orphan who grew up on the streets of Guatemala City, made the perilous border crossing through Mexico and entered the U.S. illegally when he was 14, his family said."

5/15/2006 10:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Seems both he and Laura are on a "citizenship" kick lately, exhorting eberyone to give, give give.

5/15/2006 10:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I knew it wasn't for WW2. I know a gentleman who is German and whose family had fled before the rise of Hitler. He served in the Pacific theater and when wounded and in hospital was approached to become a U.S. citizen and took them up on it.
That story always blew me away. I guess not much has changed.

5/15/2006 10:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't know what the law says in this regard, but I can tell you it has often been the reverse -- military service has been a requirement for citizenship. A college professor of mine in the 1970s was drafted into the Wehrmacht at age 14 at the end of WWII, was orphaned by the war, became a displaced person in Europe and eventually made it to America as a young man. Because he had served in the German army, his only route to citzenship was to first serve in the U.S. Army in Korea. Those who risk their lives, whether in military service or in trying to walk across the AZ desert, to get to America should tell us something about what America really means, and which we have forgotten.

5/15/2006 11:01 PM  
Blogger CMike said...

Here's a link to a PBS Newshour clip from April of 2003.

JEFFREY KAYE: Rincon was a citizen of Colombia, one of 37,000 noncitizens serving in the active duty U.S. armed forces. The military requires only that immigrants be permanent residents, not necessarily citizens in order to serve. Nearly 13,000 reservists are also noncitizens. Rincon was one of at least seven noncitizens among the 128 U.S. Military personnel killed so far in the war in Iraq. All have been awarded posthumous citizenships. In 1989, when Diego was five years old, the Rincon family moved to the U.S. to escape violence...


I'm surprised to hear you haven't seen some of the coverage of this story. Back when our country was a little more enthusiastic about expanding the Iraq war to evil doers elsewhere there was some right wing talk about filling out the ranks with recruitment aboard, not just non-citizens but non-residents whose signing bonus would be the promise of US citizenship - a win-win for neo-cons and starving third worlders.

5/15/2006 11:01 PM  
Blogger Sherri Nichols said...

Not only can illegal immigrants serve, they are explicitly required to register with Selective Service (if they're male and 18). Resident aliens are also required to register.

5/15/2006 11:56 PM  
Blogger Ahistoricality said...

CR: You're not the only person who doesn't know. You'd be surprised how often you hear of exploding heads.... that's when anti-immigrant pro-military pseudo-fascists realize that one of the "jobs native-born Americans won't do" is risk life and limb in the service of political hacks for near-minimum wage....

5/16/2006 1:23 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I work with a guy from Trinidad who was in the U.S. Air Force. He's lived in the states for about 30 years and sees no reason to become a citizen.

5/16/2006 5:08 AM  
Blogger Scott said...

A large amount of Filipino's serve in the US Navy and are not citizens.

5/16/2006 7:29 AM  
Blogger Jamie said...

I only knew because my brother-in-law's father served in the 50's before he became a citizen. And I was also going to mention Lance Cpl. Jose Antonio Gutierrez, whose picture I'd like to show anyone else who starts telling me about those "damn brown criminals, sitting on fat welfare checks watching TV and drinking 40's all day."

5/16/2006 9:44 AM  
Blogger texasdiver said...

Recent news reports put the number of non-citizens in the military at over 35,000. I suspect the number is continuing to increase. Of course you are supposed to be a permanent resident (green card holder). But from all reports, the military isn't much more rigorous in its background checks as other industries that hire illegal aliens.

I do believe that US citizenship is a requirement for commissioned officers and higher grade noncoms, and no doubt a lot of sensitive military jobs. Which of course makes sense. You would want US citizens to be in all the leadership positions. But grunts? The Pentagon is perfectly happy to take as many non-citizen grunts as want to sign up. I guess if they can wash dishes, mow lawns, work in slaughterhouses, and build houses in the civilian world then they can certainly use those same muscles in the military.

5/16/2006 10:02 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not only can non-citizens serve, but during the 50s and 60s they were subject to the draft. I know a guy from Guatemala who came here as an exchange student and ended up in combat in Vietnam.

5/16/2006 12:05 PM  
Blogger FastEddiez said...

You basically need to be a green card holder. Any military job that requires a security clearance will require citizenship. In the USMC, even grunt staff sergeants need such a clearance, so non citizen candidates need to become citizens to continue serving.
BTW, I was part of a non-formalized exchange program where Canadians joined the US military during the Vietnam war (10,000- to 40,000, numbers unknown due to lack of databased info back then.) There's a memorial for the fallen in Ontario somewhere. In return, Canada was rewarded by 100,000 or so war evaders. I stayed on in the US, and after a decade or so returned to the USMC until retirement. I think this war was unnecessary at this time (like gen Zinni), but believe that since ruling class corporatists are wont to endlessly start conflicts to maintain their perceived advantages, the US government will eventally have to adopt a French Foreign Legion style force, in order to support/supplant the resource-shy, presently configured forces.
It works fine for France. Plus our well heeled citizens, like the French, won't have to shed any alligator tears for the fur'n casualties. The officers of such a force, alas, would have to be active duty American hard-chargers.... Food for thought.

5/16/2006 2:28 PM  
Blogger texasdiver said...


And then there are the foreigners. About 35,000 non-citizens are currently serving on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces, while another 12,000 serve in the Reserve Components. The navy has the largest proportion of non-citizens on active duty, almost 16,000, nearly half the total. The Marine Corps has about 6,500, the Army about 5,000, and the Air force about 3,000. The differences are the result of variations in the service regulations governing the re-enlistment of non-citizens. The Navy and Marine Corps place no restrictions, while the Army allows them to stay in for only 8 years of service, and the Air Force limits them to no more than 6. This is to encourage the non-citizen troops to become naturalized citizens. But naval tradition, the world over, has long tolerated non-citizens serving on ships for their entire careers. All services encourage non-citizens to apply for citizenship at the earliest opportunity, and many do. Some aliens in the service have been granted U.S. citizenship posthumously.

Non-citizens appear to make better soldiers and sailors. This can best be seen by their lower attrition rates. During their first three months of service, the attrition rate for citizens was nearly 11-percent, while that for non-citizens was just under 6-percent. At the 36 month mark, the attrition rate for citizens was approximately 32-percent, as against slightly under 19-percent for non-citizens.

5/16/2006 2:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I believe that the Democratic/liberal blogger Kos became a citizen through service in the armed forces.

Rick Bowes

5/16/2006 3:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not sure about Kos, but I remember more than one story in the past couple years about people who died in Iraq and were awarded citizenship posthumously.

Not sure if that's a recent thing, or if it's been true for some time, and it's just more common now, or what.

5/16/2006 5:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

During the summer of 2002 I was reading a number of news articles online about the coming war. I periodically came across articles, mostly in local papers from the border states, claiming that in the jails as they were being held for deportation undocumented immigrants were being told (by police or guards was unclear) that enlistment in the military was the pathway to staying in the country legally.

5/16/2006 6:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I believe that military service has always been open for non-citizens. When the draft was in effect resident aliens were subject to military service. This, as far as I know, was true during each of the three periods (Civil War, WW1 and the period from 1940 to the early '70's) when the draft was in effect.

Rick Bowes

5/16/2006 10:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Doing the jobs Americans don't want to do...

Who knows who the contractors and private military are hiring...

5/17/2006 1:32 AM  
Blogger SherAn said...

It has been reported sporadically that recruiters target illegals specifically, promising them enlistment will pave the way for citizenship. No, there is NO restriction with respect to non-citizens enlisting, and in fact, were it not for those seeking citizenship, recruiting numbers would be signficantly lower.

I know in SoCal recruiters frequently make recruiting trips into Mexico. Of course, they promise the poor schmoes more than mere citizenship: we'll bring your family over, etc. And when the promises turn out to be hot air, what can a non-citizen do? Nada!

I have news clippings archived. I'll try to find the time to dig some of them out and pass them on.

5/18/2006 5:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I didn't know either before I started working at a military base 5 years ago. I suspect most Americans are unaware.

5/19/2006 8:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kos was born in the U.S.

5/22/2006 5:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A lot of Jewish immigrants fleeing Hitler et al became US citizens through serving in the military during WWII. Likewise a number of Vietnamese immigrants followed a similar path in the 1970s. And it goes further back to the Civil War as well... If you are willing to fight and die for a country, then they should at least claim you as their own (Unlike Europe where you will always be a foreigner and their laws are a complete failure as far as integration.)

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