Immigrant Military Recruitment Program Suspended, for Now25 Jan 2010
The New York Times has reported that the Army has suspended a program to recruit skilled immigrants to serve in the armed forces, as doctors, dentists, interpreters, and in other high-demand positions. (Thriving Military Recruitment Program Blocked, by Julia Preston, New York Times, 22.Jan.2010) According to the Times, the program was established on a pilot basis in February 2009, and 1,000 immigrants have already been enlisted through the program, and thousands more are seeking to apply.
Among the benefits of the program is the access it affords to skilled professionals such as doctors and dentists, and to native speakers of strategically-important languages such as Arabic, Urdu, Hindi, Punjabi, Korean, and others spoken in regions where U.S. troops are engaged, according to the NY Times article. The Times quotes a high-ranking officer in the Army recruiting command praising the high quality of the applicants for the special recruitment program, characterizing them as “off the charts,” and noting that their scores on the basic armed forces entry tests were about 20 points higher than other recruits. They also have three to five years more education and a third of the recruits have earned masters’ degrees or higher, the Army official told the Times.
According to the NYT, applicants must have lived in the United States for at least two years, either with employment-based visas or refugee status, and illegal immigrants are not eligible. Thus, the applicants have already been vetted for their initial visas to enter the United States, and the Defense Department requires additional criminal and terrorism background checks to ensure that foreign-born recruits meet strict security requirements, the Times article noted.
The Army program is currently on hold, the Times reports, pending a review by the Office of Defense Secretary Robert Gates. Military sources told the Times that the review “might have been slowed by the top-to-bottom examination of security procedures after the shooting rampage in November at Fort Hood, TX, in which an Army psychiatrist, Maj. Nidal M. Hasan, has been charged.”
Despite the apparent success of the special recruitment program, and the military’s critical need for medical personnel and linguists, it is too early to predict when – even whether – the program will resume. In the wake of the Fort Hood shootings, though, one thing seems certain: the vetting process will almost certainly be more stringent.