Uncle Sam Wants A Few Good Immigrants

Uncle Sam is looking for a few good immigrants.

You heard right. Stretched thin by wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. military is turning to the foreign-born to offset recruitment shortfalls. Specifically, the military is interested in immigrants with high skills who have been in the country legally on temporary visas for at least two years. Recruits who join could become U.S. citizens in as little as six months. Illegal immigrants need not apply. The initiative will be limited to about 1,000 recruits in the first year, mostly for the U.S. Army. But if it succeeds, Pentagon officials say they will expand it to all branches of the military.

Call it another case of immigrants doing a job that many Americans won’t do. Of course, most enlisted military personnel are U.S. citizens. But in recent years, the military has found it hard to recruit the homegrown. In June 2005, when the Iraq war was in one of its bloodiest phases, there was an article in the New York Times about how American parents were undermining recruiters by prohibiting their kids from joining the military. The Armed Forces often find immigrants more receptive to the pitch.

At the moment, permanent resident immigrants can enlist but temporary immigrants can’t -- even though many of the latter easily meet the qualifications. In fact, in a stinging indictment of the quality of the domestic volunteer corps, military recruiters say they expect the temporary immigrants enlisted under the new program to have more education, foreign language ability, and professional experience than many of the Americans who now serve.