Washington, D.C. — Today, the Center for American Progress released a new issue brief looking at how immigrants have historically played—and continue to play—a key role in U.S. military readiness.
In the wake of the Senate’s passage of the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act, S. 744, in June by a bipartisan supermajority of 68 to 32, the drumbeat for immigration reform has only increased. While much of the immigration debate in Congress has revolved around issues of border security and even the economic contributions of immigrants, far less has been discussed about the contributions that immigrants make in other areas, particularly through their military service.
The active-duty military currently contains more than 65,000 immigrants—5 percent of the force—and noncitizen immigrants account for 4 percent of all first-term military recruits. Roughly 3 percent of all living U.S. veterans were born abroad, and 12 percent of all living veterans are either immigrants or the children of immigrants. Immigrants serving in the military bring special skills, including language and cultural competencies; are less likely than their U.S.-born counterparts to leave the military before completing a tour of duty; and have historically served with distinction—20 percent of all Medal of Honor recipients were born abroad.
With ongoing missions and continued and growing strategic interests in the Middle East, the Asia-Pacific, Latin America, and Africa, recruiting and training military personnel with non-Western linguistic and cultural capabilities is pivotal to future U.S. military missions. The military must recruit the best and brightest individuals that it can attract. By tapping into the pool of immigrants and children of immigrants—something that would only be amplified by passing immigration reform and allowing all those who wish to serve the ability to do so—the U.S. military ensures that it will continue to do just that.
Read the full issue brief here.
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