When it comes to immigration reform, one of the biggest fear many have is that Congress might pass some type of domestic policy that is intended to hurt not only the best interest of the nation, but the interest of an immigrant – legal and undocumented – who are trying to navigate through this country. Members of Congress have proposed heightened border security, increased enforcement of immigration laws, and even the criminalization of undocumented immigrants and those who help them.
Widely discussed throughout the media and the blogs is how the current immigration reform bill being debated in the Senate would create a permanent underclass of indentured slave labor by allowing multinational corporations and independent contractors to hire thousands of “guest” workers a year outside the US. However, what is not often discussed or reported is how one of the provisions tucked inside the bill would also benefit the military.
This provision is called the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act or DREAM Act, which would legitimize in-state tuition programs and “provide a pathway to obtain permanent residency” to immigrant children who were brought to the United States illegally by their parents as children. In other words, the DREAM Act would allow undocumented immigrant to qualify for in-state tuition and automatically qualify them for state-funded student financial aid. As things stand, many undocumented students have not benefited from the financial aid aspect, because students are required to submit a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) application to be considered. However, FAFSA is a federal form and undocumented students are not eligible to receive federal student aid.
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. This is where the military comes in, tucked away in the current immigration bill is a provision that will help boost military recruiting.
A little-noticed provision in the proposed immigration bill would grant instant legal status and ultimately full citizenship to illegal immigrants if they enlist in the US military, an idea the Pentagon and military analysts say would boost the Pentagon’s flagging efforts to find and recruit qualified soldiers.
The reality is that military recruitment is down significantly and there are reports that the Pentagon is wanting to impose a “limited military draft” in order to maintain â€œits present force levels in Iraq and Afghanistanâ€ according to The First Post. If the bill were to become law, the provision is expected to improve military recruitment numbers by allowing undocumented immigrants to enlist as a means to obtain citizenship. It is evident that current recruitment programs are ineffective. Recently the Department of Defense announced that the recruitment goals fell short in May and this probably would explain why the military urgently wants to have Congress pass the current immigration reform bill or just the DREAM Act portion of the bill. The Army fell short in May by 7%, short of its goal of 5,500, while the Army National Guard fell 12% short of its goal and the Air National Guard was well below its target by 23%.
When the immigration bill failed to go through Congress earlier this month, Bill Carr, acting deputy undersecretary of defense for military personnel policy, told a veterans’ group that he would like to see Congress fast track the DREAM Act so the military could start recruiting undocumented immigrants right away.
“In other words, if you had come across (the border) with your parents, yet you were a minor child and have been in the U.S. school system for a number of years, then you could be eligible to enlist,” he said. “And at the end of that enlistment, then you would be eligible to become a citizen.”
Currently, between 40,000 and 47,000 non-citizens are serving in the military. According to Emilio Gonzalez, director of the Bureau of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, about 40,000 non-citizens are already serving in the military. Another source, Defense Manpower Data Center, reports there are 35,000 non-citizens are currently serving on active duty in the US Armed Forces, with another 12,000 serving in the Guard and reserves.
Only legal residents and green card holders were qualified to serve because the executive order President Bush signed 2002 only applied to them. If the current bill were to pass, the Defense Department is hoping to see a major boost because the expansion of the recruiting pool would now include at least 750,000 youths of military age that could immediately enter the path to citizenship in exchange for at least two years of service in the armed forces.
However, not everybody can qualify. According to the Globe, only high school graduates who are “honor roll students, star athletes, talented artists, aspiring teachers, and doctors” would qualify for military service. The Migration Policy Institute, a Washington think tank, told the Globe only some of them – roughly 280,000 illegal immigrants between 18 and 24 – would qualify for the program. However, this is not true. The Globe most likely cited a summary of a previous bill because neither of the current bills that have been introduced in the Senate Bill 774 (as the “DREAM Act”), H.R.1275 (as the “American Dream Act”), the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2007 (S. 1348) or S. 1639 say anything about making such exclusions.
Why would the Globe and Deputy Undersecretary Carr state a provision that is not there or cannot be found in any of those three bills? One does have to wonder why they would make such a statement, could it be so that the nativists will not be claiming this to be another example of another amnesty program.
I previously wrote that Council on Foreign Relations neo-conservative senior fellow Max Boot had proposed that the military enlist and actively recruit foreigners from other countries.
The military would do well today to open its ranks not only to legal immigrants but also to illegal ones and, as important, to untold numbers of young men and women who are not here now but would like to come. No doubt many would be willing to serve for some set period in return for one of the worldâ€™s most precious commodities – U.S. citizenship. Open up recruiting stations from Budapest to Bangkok, Cape Town to Cairo, Montreal to Mexico City. Some might deride those who sign up as mercenaries, but these troops would have significantly different motives than the usual soldier of fortune. (Emphases mine)
The truth is the US is running out of troops because the war in Iraq has tied down roughly 150,000 US troops continuously for almost four years. Now that the Bush is sending another 30,000 troops to Iraq this only makes the troop shortage worse. Recruitment is so bad, it was reported that the Army sent its recruiters to Panama City, FL during Spring Break hoping to entice some young drunk white co-ed into signing their life away to the Army.
Given the difficulty, undocumented youth have in affording college tuition, the pressure on them to make financial contributions to extended families, and the tendency to adopt uncritical forms of patriotism based on “gratitude,” military recruiters will be the ones who benefit the most. As I stated before, the US Military has a long history of targeting people who happen to come from working class families and areas with a large number of minorities, both urban and rural – otherwise known as a “poverty draft.” Many people assume that joining the military is a way out of poverty. Some veterans do say that their experience in the military or the college benefits that they were able to get, was helpful to them. However, the reality for most veterans is far different. According to the Army Times, reports that over 50,000 unemployed veterans are on the waiting list for the military’s “retraining” program. The Veterans’ Administration estimates that 1/3 of homeless people are vets.
The Pentagon has already spent millions to gather information on how to target recruit Latinos into the military. Each year, employees from JAMRS – the “official Department of Defense program for joint marketing communications and market research and studies” – gathered for their annual direct-marketing conference. JAMRS claims the role of the marketing communications programs is to “help broaden people’s understanding of Military Service as a career option.” However, it also engages in all sorts of not-for-public-consumption studies that are meant to “help bolster the effectiveness of all the Services’ recruiting and retention efforts.” In 2005, in their annual conference, paid New York marketing consultant Michael Saray made a presentation – “Marketing to Hispanics” – to JAMRS on how the Latino community is “wired” differently and how Hispanics tend to be “emotional” and “right-brained.”
According to Jorge Mariscal, Saray’s presentation indicated that Hispanics are supposedly “emotional, intuitive, creative, Big Picture, and visionary.”
Simply put, JAMRS trainees were taught “the Spanish language has not favored intellect over emotion. It’s [sic] bias or thought process has not favored the left brain over the right brain. This is a real cultural difference.” Therefore, the Saray group’s advice to Pentagon ad men devising Hispanic campaigns for military recruitment is to “avoid blatant overuse of numbers. You want to reach the heart, not the left brain.” To sum up, “the traditions of Hispanic culture are not necessarily in-synch with the concept of ‘mainstream society’ or the ‘American Dream.’ In general, Hispanics are right brain thinkers. The marketer must ‘acculturate’ or risk losing relevancy by continued reliance on left brain thinking.” (Emphases mine)
We live in a world of too much marketing and too much branding. The role of a marketer is to convince us to want things we don’t really need because their goal personal goal is to promote or exchange goods or services for money. They will develop techniques to that will trigger a person’s emotions that also meet their wants and/or needs. Their employment, like any marketing company, exist with the sole purpose to convince people that consuming resources is a way toward greater happiness. But the question is at who’s expense?
With few prospects of gaining US citizenship through the usual channels, and with little hope of employment, decent housing and education, risking ones life for a glimmer of a chance for a better future clearly holds some attraction. But it does comes with a price. The sad reality, the promises made by the Government frequently fail to materialize. Just ask Yaderlin Jiminez, wife of missing servicemen Alex Jimenez, who is now facing deportation. One of the greatest challenges for many immigrants is the experience of immigration itself, but to the Bush War Machine, this is not a concern to them. For them, all they see is cannon fodder for their war effort, while at the same time they arrogantly tell military families they should “learn how to laugh” if they fell stressed out from hear news about the war. To the military people expendable while families are morning over the fresh graves that are being dug daily! Maybe the Bush cabal can see the humor in sending thousands of people in harms way, however, I doubt the children do as they see their moms or dads being shipping off to a war that is illegal, immoral and unjust. Or the the parents who are losing their sons and daughters. Or the spouses who are losing their husbands and wifes.
Ironically, nativist and xenophobic groups are demanding the deportation of the Brown, yet, you never hear them complain when it is not unusual to hear a Spanish surname on the roll call of dead or missing. Among the first US solider killed at the beginning of the Iraq War was Jose Antonio Gutierrez from Guatemala according to Casualties.org’s database.
For some immigrants, the DREAM Act will help them access to college in the US; for others, the barriers will continue to be insurmountable. One thing is certain – if the immigration bill passes, the quest to access higher education and achieve the American Dream will be nothing but a pipe dream as these new residents will be at the frontlines of next imperial misadventures.