I’ve blogged before about an excellent bill called the DREAM Act (the Development Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act). As I noted previously:
This legislation would create a fast-track toward citizenship for a select group of undocumented immigrants—those who entered the U.S. before age 16, have no criminal record, graduate from high school, and then complete two years either in the military or in college.
This would not only offer a welcome path toward citizenship for many promising young people but also might ease some of the recruitment problems that Army has been facing of late.
This win-win idea, which has broad bipartisan support, was a casualty of the implosion of the immigration bill in June, but it is being revived. This week, as noted in this article, it may be attached to the defense authorization bill. This prospect has the xenophobic Right in a predictable lather. See, for instance, this post on the anti-immigrant web site Vdare, started, ironically enough, by an immigrant (Peter Brimelow, who came to the U.S. by way of Britain and Canada). In typically overwrought language, a Vdare blogger writes (underneath the headline “Treason Lobby’s DREAM Act”) that the DREAM Act “fits with the ideals of many neoconservatives like Max Boot who have called for an illegal alien legion.”
To set the record straight: what I’ve called for is for the U.S. military to recruit non-citizens who would earn citizenship by a term of service. The easiest way to do this is to integrate them into existing units. (We already have lots of non-citizens serving but they have to have a Green Card before they can enlist—a pointless restriction that closes the door to many high-quality potential recruits.) The DREAM Act is merely a small step in this direction since it would only allow service for a limited number of men and women who are already here. I would open up recruitment to those who are not yet here but want to come here.
I have also suggested that we might want to have a Freedom Legion modeled on the French Foreign Legion, whose enlisted ranks would be composed entirely of foreigners but which would be led by American officers and NCOs. Such a Freedom Legion could be very useful for integrating the sort of language and linguistic skills lacking in our military, and it could be used for longterm garrison duty in places like Afghanistan and Iraq. Needless to say it would not be composed of “illegal aliens”, since, by definition, those who serve for this country would receive citizenship.
I have yet to hear a persuasive argument against this idea. Most of the negative reactions are little more than emotional responses along the lines of “we don’t want to entrust our defense to mercenaries.” And yet that’s what we’re doing today in places like Iraq where, due to a lack of uniformed manpower, we rely so heavily on security contractors like Blackwater and Triple Canopy. The Freedom Legion would be much more accountable and more useful because it would be part of the regular military chain of command. And its soldiers wouldn’t be any more “mercenary” than countless foreigners—such as the Marquis de Lafayette in the Revolutionary War or the Union Army’s German Division in the Civil War—who have fought for America in the past.