On July 4, as we celebrated Independence Day, veterans joined active-duty military and military spouses and became citizens at a White House naturalization ceremony. These service members and veterans — dedicated immigrants — were willing to risk their lives for their country even before they could vote for a commander in chief. They are part of a long tradition of immigrants serving with honor in our Armed Forces.
Unfortunately, our nation's broken immigration system does not honor our history as a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants. It also makes us less competitive and undermines our military readiness and national security. As a former senior non-commissioned officer in the U.S. Army, I recognize the system's unmistakable flaws.
Our country must do more to welcome immigrants. Since September 2002, the federal government has naturalized 89,095 members of the military and veterans, making these foreign-born, legal-permanent residents U.S. citizens. But we should expand that opportunity to other immigrants who are willing to serve.
Jim Gill (Courtesy photo)Here is why: The U.S. military is in a constant competition to attract and recruit top-notch young talent, but this is not an easy task. Fewer than 30 percent of youth in the United States would even qualify to serve in the military, according to the Defense Department. Many are disqualified due to criminal violations, lack of education, obesity, or other physical limitations. And, yes, thousands of eligible young applicants are barred from service due to their immigration status.