Veterans Day and Immigrants

Yesterday, Americans observed Veterans Day. Today many readers are off because of Veterans Day. Veterans Day is an official federal holiday for honoring military veterans. It celebrates the service of all U.S. military veterans. Those include thousands of immigrants who fight for America’s ideals across the globe.

There is no doubt that immigration is a difficult political topic today. One of the narratives about immigration to the United States centers on the dangers to Americans. This is in addition to job losses and stresses on national taxpayer funded benefits, not to mention cultural diversity. Lost in the loudest narratives is the services immigrants have traditionally delivered to Americans. One of these is serving in the military.

About 8,000 immigrants enlist in armed services each year. This has been a tradition since the Revolutionary War. More than 100,000 immigrants, many of them undocumented, have served in the military since 2003, when the government began to release statistics of foreign military service members. One source documents that 80,000 foreigners served between 1999 and 2010.

In 2016, 3 percent (511,000) of the service members were foreign born. Mexico was the top source country sending their citizens to fight for America. Each of the Mexicans have distinguished themselves in all branches of the American military. They’ve distinguished themselves to the point that seven Mexican citizens, including one undocumented, have been awarded the Medal of Honor, America’s highest award.

One of the arguments for “legal” immigrants is that foreigners can acquire their U.S. citizenship through service in the armed forces. However, when the military is adequately staffed it has no provisions for allowing foreigners to join their ranks prior to gaining legal entry into the country. For many, it takes years, even a decade, making them ineligible to join because of age. When military staffing is low, the U.S. government tacitly ignores its own immigration laws and allows foreigners to swell its military ranks.

Currently under draconian Donald Trump immigration policies, the U.S. military is not allowing foreigners to join its ranks unless they are legally in the country. Many immigrants who were extended the promise of citizenship via the military are currently being discharged by the military before they can attain their citizenship, leaving them undocumented in the country.

Regardless, immigrants consistently and in great numbers have come to defend and protect American lives even at the expense of their own lives.

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