Will Immigration Foes Keep Families of Foreign-Born U.S. Armed Service Members from Getting Papers?
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Conservatives are facing a tough issue with the Military Families Act. The bill, introduced by Senate Dems, would allow the immediate family of foreign-born, active-duty members of the armed forces to apply for permanent resident status, "even" if the service member was killed in the line of duty. (It seems bizarre to say "even" if he or she was killed given that the greatest sacrifice a person can make for one's country is to give one's life for it, and, philosophically speaking, you'd think their families would have a greater claim to a green card than anyone else.)
A report released this month by the Immigration Policy Council cites a high, continuing need for immigrants in the U.S. military, not only for basic recruitment needs but also for translators and interpreters.
As of June 30, the report notes there are 114,601 foreign-born individuals serving in the armed forces, or almost 8 percent of the 1.4 million total military personnel on active duty. In the current fiscal year, the report notes more than 10,500 military service members were granted U.S. residency.
So far, no Republican has signed onto this or previous bills that would grease the wheels for military families. And if you expected that their base might be flexible, or at least pragmatic, on this issue because of the context: these aren't people who snuck across a border in the middle of the night -- we're talking about extending legal status to the kin of active service members in the midst of two occupations and at a time when our armed forces are stretched thin and suffering from the strain of repeated deployments.
But compromise does not a hard-liner make, regardless of the issue in question. Predictably, F.A.I.R., the hard-line anti-immigrant group, calls the measure "military amnesty "; Numbers USA warns of the uncontrollable "chain migration" that would result from its passage (the two groups are connected).
Joshua Holland is an editor and senior writer at AlterNet.