Sunday, February 15, 2009
Immigrant rights advocates have talked for years about the hope of comprehensive immigration reform with a path to citizenship. But they probably did not have this possibility as the top legalization priority in the new Obama administration. The N.Y. TIMES reports that, to add troops to American war efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq, the U.S. will begin recruiting immigrants living in this country on temporary visas and offer them a path to citizenship. Lawful permanent residents have long been eligible to enlist and, as reported by ImmigrationProf, many have died for this country. The new effort by the U.S. military, for the first time since the Vietnam War, will open the armed forces to temporary immigrants if they have lived in the United States for two years.
A path to citizenship for military service is not a bad idea. However, it hopefully is not the only path to legalization that the U.S. government adopts. How long must the nation wait for true comprehensive immigration reform? Yes, the economy deserves our attention. Yes, the wars (and troops) deserve attention. But, delay in immigration reform could mean, as it did in the Bush administration, NO immigration reform.
UPDATE (Feb. 23): Margaret Stock has written an article published in Bender's Immigration Bulletin describing the new program. Certain legal noncitizens who hold specified nonimmigrant visas, temporary protected status, and asylee or refugee status. Those who qualify and are willing to enlist can apply for US citizenship under INA 329, which does not require a person to have LPR status before naturalizing.