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« ’Colson the Warmonger’?? | Main | Briny Fish »

May 22, 2007

Hopelessly Devoted to You

Today's Washington Post has a story about three servicemen who took the oath of citizenship yesterday at Mount Vernon.

After swearing to defend the Constitution, Petty Officer Reginald Cherubin, 30, Marine Sgt. Brian Joseph, 38, and Army Sgt. Jeremy Tattrie, 24, joined another group: the more than 26,000 service members who have become U.S. citizens since the Iraq war began and the Bush administration expedited the citizenship process for military members. Seventy-five service members have received their citizenship posthumously since then.

According to the story, there are another 40,000 non-citizens serving in the military. This willingness of non-citizens to serve, even during times of war, has "some military experts [wanting] to open the armed forces to undocumented immigrants and foreign recruits to fill the ranks as the Army and Marines plan troop increases."

Someone who disagrees is Mark Krikorian of the Center for Immigration Studies. He told the Post that "'a very large number of non-citizens could change the purpose of the military from the defense of the country to a job and a way to get a foot in the door of the United States,' turning military service into 'a kind of mercenary thing.'"

Emilio Gonzalez, the director of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service, sees no evidence of that happening: "After [the 2002 executive order that granted permanent residents the right to apply for citizenship immediately if they enlisted]  we have not seen hordes of people joining the military . . . These people don't join the military just to become citizens. These people joined the military because they wanted to serve."

(In case you're wondering, my views on immigration are more-or-less the same as the ones columnist Ruben Navarrette expressed in this recent column.)

Reading Krikorian's comments, I couldn't help but smile and think, "As opposed to way we recruit citizens on the basis of selfless patriotism?"

More substantively, the story brought to mind a distinction I've seen made by many immigration-restrictionists (not an epithet, just a description): being an American citizen versus being an American.

The best-known articulation of that distinction is Samuel P. Huntington's Who Are We: The Challenges to America's National Indentity. In a basic sense, Huntington and others are obviously right. Take two women whose names are often linked together: Zoe Sandvig and Nicole Kidman. Both are by accidents of birth eligible for dual Australian and American citizenship. Yet, the former is clearly an American and the latter is an Australian. In other words, being an American is about more than which passport you're entitled to carry.

Whatever that "more" is it should include the willingness to put yourself in harm's way and give the last full measure of devotion, which is what 75 non-citizens have done in Iraq. At the very least, they deserve better than being called "mercenaries" by those safely ensconced inside the Beltway.

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