In late December 2006, the Bush administration reversed its previous position
and agreed to a permanent expansion of the Army and Marine Corps.(1)
In reality, the size of the two “ground services”
has grown steadily since 2001 when Congress approved a temporary
increase of 30,000 to the Army and authorized additional increases
to the Army and Marines in 2005 and 2006. The current proposal
would make these increases permanent and by 2012 achieve the objective
of an active-duty Army of 542,400 and a Marine Corps of 190,000.
In their public statements, Pentagon officials claimed that finding
the bodies to reach these goals would not be difficult. Increased
bonuses, more recruiters, massive publicity campaigns, and appeals
to patriotism would be enough to attract volunteers, they argued.
Lesser-known programs — such as the Army GED Plus Enlistment
Program, in which applicants without high school diplomas are
allowed to enlist while they complete a high school equivalency
certificate — are expected to help. (Interestingly, the
GED Plus Enlistment Program is available only in inner city areas.)
The Army’s recent fudging of entrance requirements to accept
an increased percentage of recruits with minor criminal records
may also raise enlistment numbers.
Given the prospect of a prolonged U.S. presence in Iraq, however,
the Pentagon’s optimistic predictions about increasing the
size of the ground services by making minor adjustments to existing
recruiting practices may not pan out. In anticipation of difficult
days ahead for recruiters, no sooner had Bush announced his decision
than conservative think tanks began to recycle proposals about
recruiting foreigners into the U.S. military.
In a recent Boston Globe article, unidentified Army
sources reported that Pentagon officials and Congress are investigating
“the feasibility of going beyond U.S. borders to recruit
soldiers and Marines.” Michael O’Hanlon of the Brookings
Institution, Thomas Donnelly of the American Enterprise Institute,
and Max Boot of the Council on Foreign Relations cited historical
precedents for using foreign troops. Since at least 2005, Boot
has been recommending the establishment of “recruiting stations
along the U.S.-Mexico border” as a way to solve the problems
of military manpower and illegal immigration.
However, several sources in the Globe article —
including spokespersons for the Army and the Latino advocacy group
National Council for La Raza (NCLR) — expressed disagreement
with proposals to recruit foreign nationals, which means that
other more feasible options may begin to surface.
A likely scenario is that the Pentagon will focus on one specific
sector of the undocumented population: foreign nationals raised
and educated in the United States. According to the Urban Institute,
every year approximately 60,000 undocumented immigrants or children
of immigrants (who have lived in the United States five years
or longer) graduate from U.S. high schools. By marketing the military
to this group, problems associated with the recruitment of foreigners,
such as poor English language skills and low educational levels,
could be alleviated.
So far military recruiters have limited their efforts to the
pursuit of citizens and permanent residents (green card holders).
It is a little-known fact, however, that the National Defense
Authorization Act for fiscal year 2006 amended current legal statutes
by allowing military service secretaries to waive citizenship
and residency requirements “if such Secretary determines
that the enlistment of such person is vital to the national interest”
(U.S. Code Title 10, Chapter 31, §504: 2006).
Is the DREAM Act the Pentagon’s Dream, Too?
If the Pentagon were to decide to exercise its new prerogative
and begin to recruit undocumented youth in order to grow the Army
and Marines, the most obvious selling point would be permanent
residency and eventual citizenship. This is one of the little-known
aspects of the DREAM Act, legislation that would grant conditional
residency to most undocumented high school graduates and permanent
residency in exchange for the successful completion of two years
of college or two years of military service.
In his testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee on
July 10, 2006, Under Secretary of Defense David Chu said: “According
to an April 2006 study from the National Immigration Law Center,
there are an estimated 50,000 to 65,000 undocumented alien young
adults who entered the U.S. at an early age and graduate from
high school each year, many of whom are bright, energetic and
potentially interested in military service. . . . Provisions of
S. 2611, such as the DREAM Act, would provide these young people
the opportunity of serving the United States in uniform.”
More recently, Lt. Col. Margaret Stock of the U.S. Army Reserve,
and also a faculty member at West Point, told a reporter that
the DREAM Act could help recruiters meet their goals by providing
a “highly qualified cohort of young people” without
the unknown personal details that would accompany foreign recruits.
“They are already going to come vetted by Homeland Security.
They will already have graduated from high school,” she
said. “They are prime candidates.
The lure of citizenship is already a tool for recruiting green
card holders, especially because of expedited naturalization procedures
put in place for military personnel in 2002. In San Diego, for
example, recruiters have told permanent residents that “I
can help you get citizenship,” when in fact the military
has no input into the final granting or denial of citizenship.
Although exact numbers are difficult to ascertain, roughly 20%
of legal residents in the military who have applied for naturalization
since late 2001 have been denied citizenship. This suggests that
military service carries no guarantee that permanent residents
will be granted the one benefit for which they probably enlisted
and for which they may be forced to risk their life.
Other anecdotes recount recruiters threatening that the immigration
status of recruits and their family would be affected should the
recruit try to back out of an enlistment agreement. More devious
recruiters have used the law requiring undocumented youth to register
for Selective Service as a way to convince non-English-speaking
parents that there is obligatory military service in the United
The expansion of the recruiting pool to include the undocumented
would be a recruiting command’s dream and may be the only
way for the Pentagon to increase the size of the Army and Marines
Corps.(2) A 2006 study by the Migration Policy Institute calculated
that passage of the DREAM Act “would immediately
make 360,000 unauthorized high school graduates aged 18 to 24
eligible for conditional legal status [and] that about 715,000
unauthorized youth between ages 5 and 17 would become eligible.
. . sometime in the future.”
While the DREAM Act may facilitate access to college for a small
percentage of these undocumented students, in many cases other
factors will militate against the college option. Given the difficulty
undocumented youth have in affording college tuition, the pressure
on them to make financial contributions to extended families,
and the tendency among many to adopt uncritical forms of patriotism
based on “gratitude,” military, not college, recruiters
may be the ones who benefit the most.
As one undocumented student wrote to me: “I was brought
to America [from Mexico] when I was 12. I am 21 now and I am only
going to college because in the state of Illinois I pay in-state
tuition despite being illegal. I would serve in the military if
I was given an opportunity to do so and DIE for America if necessary.
Shouldn’t I be able to be legal?”
Military manpower needs, limited economic and educational opportunity,
and the desire for social acceptance could transport immigrants
and their children to the frontlines of future imperial misadventures
such as the protracted disaster in Iraq.
(1)The earlier policy stated: “The Administration opposes
increases in minimum active Army and Marine Corps end strengths
in Title IV, because they could require DoD to maintain a higher
personnel level than is needed. The restructuring of the Army
and the Marine Corps, plus other initiatives, is enabling our
military to get more warfighting capability from current end strength.”
(From the “Statement of Administration Policy,” June
14, 2006). During the 2004 election campaign, Bush criticized
Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry for his proposal
to expand the Army by 40,000.
(2)Ironically, nativist and restrictionist groups as well as
anti-militarism activists will oppose the recruitment of the undocumented,
although for completely different reasons. Organizations such
as the National Council for La Raza (NCLR) that oppose the recruitment
of foreigners would most likely support a vehicle for recruiting
undocumented graduates from U.S. high schools. In May 2006, NCLR
praised the passage of the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act
(Senate Bill 2611) that included a DREAM Act provision.
Information sources: Dogen Hannah, “Military service
a fast track to the American dream,” Contra Costa Times
(May 21, 2006); Eunice Moscoco, “Bill to aid immigrant students
could pass in new Congress,” Cox News Service (December
18, 2006); Bryan Bender, “Military considers recruiting
foreigners,” Boston Globe (December 26, 2006).
This article is from Draft NOtices, the newsletter
of the Committee Opposed to Militarism and the Draft (http://www.comdsd.org)