AILA Applauds New Program for Immigrants in the Military

Cite as "AILA InfoNet Doc. No. 08121230 (posted Dec. 12, 2008)"

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Friday, December 12, 2008
CONTACT:
George Tzamaras
202-507-7649
gtzamaras@aila.org

WASHINGTON, DC - The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) commends Defense Secretary Robert Gates for authorizing the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps to recruit more foreigners living in the United States in legal status - including those present to study or work - to make up for chronic shortages of doctors, nurses and linguists available for wartime duty.>

"The bottom line is that the Pentagon lacks sufficient numbers of doctors and nurses to treat wounded troops and needs more troops with foreign-language skills to help navigate diverse cultures," said Charles H. Kuck, President of AILA. "Our history has shown that the US military has long accepted noncitizens that are permanent residents of the United States and hold green cards. This action enables the services to recruit certain legal residents whose critical medical and language skills are vital to the national interest. The US military recruited these persons in prior wars, and it makes sense to recruit them now."

To be eligible under the program, according to a Defense Department fact sheet, the applicants must have lived legally in the United States for at least two years as a refugee, asylum seeker, or under so-called "temporary protected status," or have been in the United States for the same period in one of certain other legal statuses. They cannot have traveled outside the United States for more than 90 days at a time in the two years prior to enlistment.

The medical personnel accepted under the program would be required to serve at least three years on active duty, or six years in the Selected Reserve, and foreign language specialists would be required to serve four years of active duty. The new recruits into the armed forces would get accelerated treatment in the process toward becoming U.S. citizens in return for military service.

"Our nation has benefitted from the patriotic support and contributions made by immigrants in previous wars, and it is no different now especially in today's global war on terror," said Kuck. "My hope is that this new program will shine a positive light on the immigration debate, as the service of these legal aliens is authorized and recognized."

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The American Immigration Lawyers Association is the national association of immigration lawyers established to promote justice, advocate for fair and reasonable immigration law and policy, advance the quality of immigration and nationality law and practice, and enhance the professional development of its members.