TOWN HALL: Immigrants make great U.S. soldiers (poll)

January 19, 2012
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As often argued here, some illegal immigrants benefit our country. Anyone can be born an American citizen. It is not an accomplishment. An illegal immigrant, by contrast, came here of choice, usually to seize opportunity. Some risked their lives crossing the Rio Grande, committing a misdemeanor that should be punished when witnessed and proved. Others managed to compete successfully, legally, for a limited number of student or work visas that have expired and rendered them as unwelcome guests. Throughout American history, those who worked and traveled and fought to be in the land of the free have had disproportionately high effects on making this country great.

As such, it was no surprise when the Center for Naval Analysis (CNA), a federally funded research organization serving defense agencies, found that noncitizen military enlistees perform at the highest level. The military has enlisted more than 70,000 noncitizens since the Sept. 11 attacks. As the Wall Street Journal reported on Feb. 10, some are illegal immigrants who found ways to enlist and defend the United States.

The CNA report, based on retention data and interviews with recruiters, found that “relative to citizen recruits, noncitizen recruits generally have a stronger attachment to serving in the United States, which they now consider to be ‘their country,’ and have a better work ethic.”

Research found that within three months of entering service, 8.2 percent of citizen enlistees get discharged. Fewer than half that percentage of noncitizen enlistees get discharged. As time goes on, the disparity grows even more in favor of non-American service personnel. After three years, 28 percent of citizen enlistees have left without satisfying service obligations. Only 16 percent of noncitizens fail to meet their obligations. After four years, 32 percent of citizens wash out, compared to only 18 percent of noncitizens.

As often pointed out by The Gazette’s editorial board, declining fertility rates among United States citizens have made us more dependent upon immigrants, legal or otherwise. Regardless of outdated immigration policies that we try in vain to enforce, economic and social forces create a demand for immigrants that overpowers human law. We can outlaw gravity, or floods, but it won’t stop either. The CNA report cited declining fertility rates, among American citizens, and suggested more recruitment of immigrants. It’s the wave of the future for all segments of society.

Should satisfactory military service provide a means of amnesty for illegal immigrants? Vote in poll to the right. Must vote to see results.

We encourage military executives to consider more-aggressive-than-usual efforts to enlist immigrants, if they have trouble with staffing. We also recommend that politicians consider tweaking immigration policies so that recruiters can promise amnesty to noncriminal illegal immigrants after they satisfy service obligations. We make this recommendation with a major caveat: Noncitizen enlistees must pose no disadvantage to qualifying citizen applicants, which means law-abiding citizens must be given priority over law-abiding immigrants. Additionally, immigrants with legal residency should be given priority over noncriminal illegal immigrants.

“Amnesty” has become a disparaged word, but we will have to embrace it. Our country hasn’t the means of deporting millions of people. If anything should provide a path to citizenship, with forgiveness of grievances, it is service in the defense of freedom.

That's our view. What's yours? Please initiate or join in a Facebook discussion below, and vote in poll to the upper right.

Friend editorial page editor Wayne Laugesen on Facebook, follow him on Twitter

Must-see-daily site: Complete Colorado

See CNA brief on noncitizen research

See Tom Philpott column about this topic

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