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S. citizenship (Bloemraad 2002). Given the ongoing need for qualified recruits by the U.S. armed forces, it just makes sense to determine the extent of enlistment in the armed forces by immigrants to identify their personal reasons for doing so. To the extent that these reasons are directly related to their desire to obtain American citizenship rather than a sense of patriotic responsibilities is the extent to which military service may represent a viable alternative to more time-consuming, expensive and complication naturalization procedures. It is important, though, to ensure that these immigrant recruits are provided with accurate information concerning how military service will affect their naturalization status and efforts to secure ultimate citizenship.
Rationale of Study
Military recruiters typically experience increases in enlistments during periods of economic downturn because of limited employment opportunities elsewhere in the private sector. Nevertheless, recruiting adequate numbers of high-quality and motivated service members is more challenging during periods of armed hostilities. One authority suggests that the solution is clear: "The obvious solution is to resurrect the draft. That remains a noble ideal, but an increasingly impractical one. A draft, remember, might not just draw in the elite; it could also pressure the military to accept those it now prides itself on weeding out" (Waldman 1996:27). The idea of resurrecting the draft, however, is anathema to many politicians and it is reasonable to suggest that military recruiters will continue to focus on those segments of American society that offer the best chances of filling the ranks, segments which include immigrants in increasing numbers.
Overview of Study
This study used a three-chapter format to achieve the above-stated research purpose. Chapter one of the study was used to introduce the topics to be considered, and to provide a statement of the problem, the purpose and importance of the study, as well as its rationale. Chapter two of the study was used to deliver a review of the juried and scholarly literature concerning the historic patterns of immigrant service in the armed forces and their contributions, as well as a discussion of current and future trends. Finally, chapter three provides a summary of the research and important findings.
Chapter 2: Review of Related Literature
This chapter provides a brief history of military service by immigrants throughout U.S. history, followed by a discussion concerning the importance of the contributions historically made by immigrants serving in the U.S. armed forces and an assessment of current and future trends including the effect of the Development, Relief, and Education Act for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act. A summary of the research concludes this chapter.
Brief History of Military Service by Immigrants in the U.S.
The relationship between citizenship and an obligation for military service is truly ancient and can be found among the Greeks and Romans. According to Gross (1999), in Roman society, the importance of citizenship cannot be overstated: "Citizenship gave to everyone his basic rights: the right to marry a Roman, to trade (connubium, commercium), commercial contracts had legal validity; it protected a person and his family in its dealings with Roman authorities" (31). Roman citizenship also carried some heavy responsibilities that included military service for males. In this regard, Gross reports that, "But it also involved duties, above all military service and participation in government, in various assemblies and courts -- but again, it opened opportunities to various offices. Moreover, a citizen and his actions were protected by ius civile, Roman law, the law of the land binding all citizens. Hence, a citizen could take action in court" (Gross 1999:31). Likewise, today, citizenship is not a free ride (even though many natural-born Americans may believe otherwise) and Zilbershats (2001) reports that, "Citizenship is the embodiment of the strongest link between the individual and the State, a link which is reflected by the fact that the citizen is entitled to all the rights which the States grants and is subject to all the duties which it imposes" (689). This point is also made by Gribbin (1999) who emphasizes that the provision of citizenship carries with it certain responsibilities: "Each nation decides to whom it will grant citizenship and how it will grant it. Some sell it. The Central American country of Belize does.
But most give it away, and the gift demands a payback that consists of duties to be accepted and a pledge of allegiance and loyalty" (9). It is not surprising, then, that immigrants may seek to expedite their acquisition of citizenship in countries that offer this fast track when it is available.
For the purposes of this study, then, immigrants will be regarded as intending to establish a permanent residence in another country, in this case the United States, an assumption that is consistent with the legal definition. For instance, according to Black's Law Dictionary (1990), an immigrant is "an alien in a country" and "one who leaves a country to permanently settle in another" (750). Immigrants have long taken advantage of this expeditious path to American citizenship and the benefits it confers. For example, according to Moore (2003), "Since the American Revolution, the concept of the citizen soldier has existed in the United States. Historically, racial and ethnic minorities were afforded no more rights than noncitizens; many served in the armed services with the expectation of attaining the citizenship rights denied them" (1). In fact, this legacy continues today in principle and function with the United States generally requiring 5 years of residency in the country to establish eligibility for citizenship applications but immigrants who have served on active duty in the armed forces have no residence requirement at all (Bloemraad 2002).
The track record of immigrant contributions in the military dates back to the country's inception. For example, Stock (2009) notes that, "Immigrants have been eligible to enlist in the U.S. military since the Revolutionary War and have served in times of war with great distinction. Many have won the Congressional Medal of Honor, this nation's highest military decoration" (5). Enlistment and service in the armed forces has traditionally been regarded as qualifying an immigrant for citizenship. Indeed, Stock emphasizes that, "It has long been an American tradition that service in the armed forces can lead to U.S. citizenship" (5). Some salient examples of immigrants who served in the U.S. armed forces with distinction include Alfred Rascon, described by Stock as being "an undocumented immigrant from Mexico who won the Medal of Honor during the Vietnam War and later became a U.S. citizen and eventually the Director of the Selective Service System" (5).
Other significant examples of immigrants who served in the military with distinction include General John Shalikashvili, a former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff who was immigrated to the U.S. from Poland following the end of World War II (Stock 2009). In fact, during the most recent complete federal fiscal year (FY 2009), 10,505 active duty service members in the military were naturalized (see Figure 1 below), the highest level in a decade, and the level of immigrant naturalization through military service are highest during times of war when recruitment challenges are otherwise especially acute (Stock 5).
Figure 1. Members of U.S. Armed Forces Naturalized in United States & Abroad, FY 2001-2009
Source: Stock at 5
The importance of becoming an American citizen for immigrants (who by definition are seeking to relocate to the U.S. permanently) can account for this increase in naturalization through military service when the lengthy, expensive and complicated legal alternatives are less attractive. American citizenship can be gained in a number of ways:
1. Virtually all children born on U.S. soil (even to children born to illegal border crossers) become American citizens as well as children born anywhere to U.S. citizens.
2. Adults can also become U.S. citizens through naturalization (Gribbin 9).
In order to become eligible for naturalization as a citizen, immigrants must be at least 18 years old and have resided in the U.S. with a status as a legal resident for at least 5 years; but immigrants who are married to U.S. citizens can apply after 3 years and those who have served on active duty in the U.S. armed forces can apply for naturalization immediately (Gribbin 9). Besides these qualifications, immigrants seeking citizenship through naturalization must also be able to speak, read and write conversational English; however, there are some grey areas for this requirement and anecdotal accounts from across the country suggest that this requirement is not given that much attention in some jurisdictions (Gribbin 1999).
In addition, immigrants seeking citizenship through the naturalization process must also be able to show that they are capable of understanding the operation of the U.S. government and have a basic knowledge of U.S. history, but some disabled immigrants are exempted from this requirement (Gribbin 1999). Upon successful completion of the foregoing requirements, immigrants can receive American citizenship; however, the assignment of these fundamental rights is accompanied by a concomitant obligation…
Sources Used in Documents:
Anbinder, Tyler, 2006. "Which Poor Man's Fight? Immigrants and the Federal Conscription of
1863." Civil War History 52(4): 344-345.
Black's Law Dictionary. St. Paul, MN: West Publishing Co., 1990.
Bloemraad, Irene, 2002. "The North American Naturalization Gap: an Institutional Approach to Citizenship Acquisition in the United States and Canada." The International Migration
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