A Foreign Contribution
By: Russell Seeger
During the Revolutionary War, overlooking that all of the newly declared "Americans" were technically immigrants, some notable leaders were foreigners fighting for the continental army. For example, General Lafayette of France, Casimir Pulaski of Poland, and Friederich von Steuben were all highly respected and decisive individuals who led and fought with American soldiers, eventually securing them victory over the British.
Since the Revolutionary War, immigrants have played a significant role in the U.S. military. In every war since then, immigrants have enlisted in the U.S. Armed Forces, joining citizens in the cause of defending America’s values. Today, immigrants can enlist in the military If they have a permanent resident status, the equivalent of a high school education, and are proficient in English.
The incentive for immigrants to join the military is certainly promising. Under the DREAM (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors) Act, immigrants can acquire full citizenship if they enlist in the military; and many aspiring citizens are capitalizing on this opportunity.
The Department of Defense has noted that in recent years there have been more than 65,000 immigrants in active duty service in the U.S. military. Additionally, One America recently found that, on average, over 8,000 immigrants enlist in the U.S. military annually, establishing the U.S. as the global leader in immigrant military service. Of the thousands of immigrants serving, the most common country of origin is Mexico, with the Philippines following as a close second. Generally, however, most enlisted immigrants come from Latin America and Asia.
Currently, non-citizens are not allowed to serve as commissioned officers. Yet, that does not mean they are not effective in their service. Within the military, immigrants often serve a unique purpose that is usually not met by citizen service members. Specifically, immigrants offer diverse cultural knowledge and language skills that aid U.S. troops deployed abroad. This is particularly useful today as our forces are deployed globally, and they often struggle to integrate into the respective environments, which immigrant service-members are helping alleviate.
While immigrants may not have necessarily grown up in a land where democratic values are particularly respected and bountiful, thousands of them have flocked to the U.S. with a passion equal to that of natural citizens to protect such principles. Although Americans may certainly acknowledge the fact that their nation and its ideals are so appealing as to attract millions every year, they may also be reassured to see immigrants making such a great sacrifice for an unfamiliar land, and making the initiative to secure a better future not only for themselves, but also for the country that has welcomed them.