I am not an avid follower of politics; most politicians are professional liars and panderers, and I don’t like devoting much time listening to people who, at best, are telling me what they think I want to hear, and at worst, are lying right to my face. Still, I do occasionally get what seems to be a good idea, something perhaps worth writing down, even. Personally, I would fall on a sword before I ever ran for office, so on the off chance that I do incubate a workable and helpful idea, I guess I should blog it so some future politician can use it and swiftly take credit for thinking of it first.
If you pay any attention whatsoever to the outside world, you’re probably well aware that:
a) the U.S. gets a great deal of new, illegal residents from Mexico (and other countries, to be fair, but primarily Mexico) every year. Roughly, from what I read, it’s about a million people per year. A lot of attention is being paid to the issue right now, since it’s an election year. And,
b) We’ve got a shortage of men and women in the U.S. Armed Forces. We’ve raised the age ceiling on new recruits, we’re offering big signing bonuses…anything to beef up the number of troops. We’re spread pretty thin, it seems.
So, we have the Armed Forces desperate for more Americans to sign up. We have a million Mexicans coming here every year, desperate to be Americans (more or less). Why can’t we kill two birds with one stone?
Here’s what I’d propose: Immigrants with clean criminal records (at least clear of major stuff — previous attempts at crossing the border wouldn’t bother me) who would commit to an 8-year term in the U.S. military would enjoy temporary citizenship during those eight years, as would their immediate families. When the eight-year term is up, the entire family would become permanent U.S. citizens. Would it work?
Well, first of all, would they (the immigrants) take us up on it? I wholeheartedly believe so. Most of the Mexicans who come here are ready to work really, really hard, for really, really poor wages, doing really, really ugly work. So, are we to believe they’d turn up their noses at the current U.S. military wages and benefits (free quarters or a quarters allowance, free health care, G.I. Bill, lifetime pension after 20 years of service, etc.), and first-class job training? Sure, we’re at war, so not everyone will want to go for it — but plenty of Americans are still signing up, and they’ve got a lot more alternatives as American citizens than do the impoverished Mexicans who make the trip here by the thousands each day.
What about the language barrier? A problem initially, yes, but some of the best linguists in the world work for the U.S. Military. Immigrants would pick up English in the Armed Forces better than anywhere else, and so would their families. And when their eight years of service is up, the U.S. job market gets a fresh infusion of skilled workers. Some would return to Mexico, sure…but how many? I may be naive, but I think that the enormous difference in opportunity and social services offered between the U.S. and Mexico would lead many to stay in the U.S. permanently.
Remember — the million-plus immigrants annually are coming here anyway, whether we offer them a path to the military or shuttle them into strawberry fields and Christmas tree farms and dishwashing jobs, pretending they’re not really there. Why not give them a hand up while giving a boost to the military and the economy?
Would it work? Am I crazy? All comments welcome.