Roadblocks to Immigrant Enlistment Break Promises, Disregard History

Digital and Design Associate

October 19, 2017

WASHINGTON, D.C. — New policies from the Department of Defense introduce hurdles to lawful permanent residents (LPRs) who want to serve in the U.S. military — an opportunity guaranteed under U.S. law.

Department of Defense policies issued late last week block LPRs, also known as green-card holders, from enlisting in the Army Reserve, Army National Guard and Air National Guard, and prevent LPRs seeking to become full-time soldiers from starting basic training until background checks are complete, which could take at least a year, the Washington Post reports.

Green-card holders on active duty will have honorable-service certifications revoked if their background checks are not yet complete, as NPR notes.

To be approved for LPR status requires biometric and biographic checks and four different FBI and Department of Homeland Security background checks, as well as medical examinations.

Military experts and veterans reacted with dismay to the changes.

“Green-card holders have been suddenly barred from serving to prevent them from earning their citizenship through military service,” said Margaret Stock, a retired lieutenant colonel in the Military Police, U.S. Army Reserve. “Green-card holders have been a valuable asset in all of our nation’s past wars, and this action deprives the United States of the benefits of their service.”

“I condemn these changes,” said retired Gunnery Sgt. Tony Serna, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran from McKinney, Texas. “I served with green-card holders for 33 years in peace and in war. They have always been part of the American fabric of this, their adopted country.”

“Personnel shortages continue to plague our military services. This directly impacts our national security and compromises our future as a secure and free nation,” said retired Sgt. 1st Class Monica A. Valdiviez-Wiley of Arlington, Virginia. “Lawful permanent residents have filled those gaps. We need to proceed strategically, meet our recruiting shortages and fulfill our security needs today and in the future.”

“This action by the Department of Defense is antithetical to the values that our nation, and our Defense Department, claims to abide by. This is wholly unacceptable,” said Travis Weiner, a U.S. Army Veteran of the Iraq War and current law student in Boulder, Colorado.

“Any policy that deters lawful permanent residents from serving will hurt our military force readiness,” said Ali Noorani, Executive Director of the National Immigration Forum. “Green-card holders are crucial to our armed forces. The Department of Defense should continue to welcome them, not create barriers and break promises to people who are already serving.

“We can ensure our security without dishonoring men and women who want to defend our country. Let’s have a consistent, well-thought-out set of requirements that apply to citizens and green-card holders alike.

“Immigrants have served honorably in our military since the Revolutionary War. We flout that history at our peril.”

###