US: Desperate Army, Air Force Recruit Immigrants With Promise Of Rapid Citizenship

Desperate to overcome recruiting shortfalls, the US Army and Air Force are making a major push to recruit immigrants, using the enticement of citizenship granted in a matter of weeks. 

The Marine Corps is the only branch that’s on track to make its 2023 recruiting goal. The Army is coming off its worst recruiting performance in decades, and its surveys have determined that young Americans’ fear of death and mental illness are the biggest reasons they won’t sign up. On top of that, it’s estimated that only 23% of 17- to 24-year-olds meet physical, mental and moral requirements for Army service without obtaining a waiver.  

The dismal situation has the Army and Air Force setting their sights on legal immigrants, luring them with not only the standard pitches about training and education benefits but also with the promise of taking a major shortcut to American citizenship.  

“We have large populations of legal U.S. residents who are exceptionally patriotic, they’re exceptionally grateful for the opportunities that this country has provided,” Maj. Gen Ed Thomas, commander of the Air Force Recruiting Service, told the Associated Press. 

Through a new program, immigrants are enrolled in the citizenship system upon their commitment to service. An accelerated process then kicks in once they arrive at their basic training installation, with the goal of swearing them in as citizens when they graduate.  

The Army and Air Force recruiting commands are seeking target-rich environments in areas of high immigrant concentration and, where possible, are attempting to assign recruiters with matching ethnicities, and social media is one of the preferred avenues of attack. 

“It is one thing to hear about the military from locals here, but it is something else when it’s from your fellow brother, from the country you’re from,” new Army reservist and native Nepali Esmita Spudes Bidari told AP. Bidari was targeted by a Nepali US Army recruiter via a Facebook group to facilitate connections between Nepalis in America. “That brother was in the group and he was recruiting and he told me about the military.”

Of the Army’s 2,900 immigrants recruited this fiscal year, most are from Jamaica, then Mexico, the Philippines and Haiti. Many others came from Nepal, Nigeria, Ghana, Cameroon, Colombia and the Dominican Republic.  

Recruiting immigrants involves extra red tape, with another layer of security screening and coordination with US Citizenship and Immigration Services. Among the associated headaches for recruiters is helping people with a limited command of English navigate and comprehend the paperwork….then again, given recruiters’ long-standing reputation for dishonesty, perhaps they find the language barrier comes in handy.


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