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Greg Siskind on Immigration Law and Policy

WAR OF WORDS ON UNLAWFULLY PRESENT IMMIGRANTS IN MILITARY

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Two people I highly respect - San Diego Tribune columnist Ruben Navarrette, Jr., and my friend Margaret Stock, are having a debate in Commentary Magazine over the role of unlawfully present immigrants in the military. Margaret also happens to be the foremost expert in the country on issues related to immigrants and the military.

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  1. Another voice's Avatar
    I read this article Navarrete usually brings up a good perspective on immigration specially as a counter point to Lou Dobbs on CNN. But I did think this article was only stereotyping immigrants and saying that because there is one bad apple all apples must be bad kind of situation. Too bad I usually enjoy the perspective that Navarrete brings on his article all though he is sort of sarcastic.
  2. Anonymous's Avatar
    I'm just a bit confused. How did they get in the military to begin with? There are background checks. I think if you lie about your identity to get in the military, you can't be trusted and should not be allowed to serve. If you tell the truth - ie "I'm not here legally but want to serve" - I say let them in.

    We (the US Navy) recruited heavily in the Phillipines of non US citizens - and they were able to earn their citizensip/GC. The process was almost trivial from what I understood.

    I served with many servicemen from the Phillipines. Many had distinguished careers.
  3. Michael Cole's Avatar
    An illegal alien may not enlist in the U.S. military.
    10 U.S.C. 504 states:
    (b) Citizenship or residency.
    (1) A person may be enlisted in any armed force only if the person is one of the following:
    (A) A national of the United States, as defined in section 101(a)(22) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1101(a)(22)).
    (B) An alien who is lawfully admitted for permanent residence, as defined in section 101(a)(20) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1101(a)(20)).
  4. Margaret Stock's Avatar
    Michael Cole didn't post the full statute. It's also important to note that this statute was enacted in January 2006, and before January 2006, anyone (regardless of immigration status) could enlist in the US military during wartime. But here's the full, current statute--and be sure to read to the end, which gives you the exceptions to what Michael Cole posted. He is incorrect in his statement that "[a]n illegal alien may not enlist in the U.S. military." An illegal alien can enlist if the Service Secretary concerned approves the enlistment, as described in the statute.

    10 USC ? 504. Persons not qualified

    (a) Insanity, desertion, felons, etc. No person who is insane, intoxicated, or a deserter from an armed force, or who has been convicted of a felony, may be enlisted in any armed force. However, the Secretary concerned may authorize exceptions, in meritorious cases, for the enlistment of deserters and persons convicted of felonies.

    (b) Citizenship or residency.
    (1) A person may be enlisted in any armed force only if the person is one of the following:
    (A) A national of the United States, as defined in section 101(a)(22) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1101(a)(22)).
    (B) An alien who is lawfully admitted for permanent residence, as defined in section 101(a)(20) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1101(a)(20)).
    (C) A person described in section 341 of one of the following compacts:
    (i) The Compact of Free Association between the Federated States of Micronesia and the United States (section 201(a) of Public Law 108-188 (117 Stat. 2784; 48 U.S.C. 1921 note)).
    (ii) The Compact of Free Association between the Republic of the Marshall Islands and the United States (section 201(b) of Public Law 108-188 (117 Stat. 2823; 48 U.S.C. 1921 note)).
    (iii) The Compact of Free Association between Palau and the United States (section 201 of Public Law 99-658 (100 Stat. 3678; 48 U.S.C. 1931 note)).
    (2) Notwithstanding paragraph (1), the Secretary concerned may authorize the enlistment of a person not described in paragraph (1) if the Secretary determines that such enlistment is vital to the national interest.
  5. Margaret Stock's Avatar
    I should also add that Congress clearly intended that illegal or unauthorized immigrants be allowed to serve under some circumstances. Under two other statutes, not listed above, Congress requires unauthorized foreign males age 18-26 to register for Selective Service (the draft), and allows unauthorized immigrants of any gender who serve on at least one day of active duty to get expedited citizenship in wartime, provided they serve honorably (and their citizenship can be revoked if they do not serve honorably for five years). There would be no point to the Selective Service registration and expedited citizenship exceptions regarding illegal or unauthorized immigrants if they are not permitted to serve at all.

    Interestingly, there was no statutory restriction on Navy and Marine Corps enlistment of unauthorized immigrants, even in peacetime, until January 2006. (There was a policy restriction, but not a statutory one.) So the Navy and Marine Corps could have legally enlisted many unauthorized immigrants until January 2006, even without the approval of the Secretary of the Navy. The change in January 2006 made it harder in some ways for the Navy and Marine Corps, and easier for the Army and Air Force (which can now enlist unauthorized immigrants in both wartime and peacetime, with the approval of the Secretary concerned). I'm told that the Navy and Marine Corps asked for the change to the law, but do not know why those Services requested this change.
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