Service and Citizenship

Like many western militaries, the US armed forces have a surprising number of non-citizens in their ranks. When it comes to people fighting for a country that isn’t their own, we usually think of the French Foreign Legion, or perhaps the Nepalese Gurkhas who serve in the British and Indian armies, but it’s actually a lot more common than that. Anyone from the Commonwealth or the Irish Republic can join the British Army, and the US Army will take just about anyone who has permanent residence.

Lots of things motivate people to sign up in another country’s army. For Commonwealth troops, the big attraction is usually just being part of a large, active force like the British Army. For foreign nationals who join the US Army, however, the prospect of citizenship is often a big part of it.

It’s not easy to become a US citizen, especially if you don’t have a trade that the country needs. Military service gives many people a chance at citizenship they wouldn’t have had otherwise. Complete the required enlistment and get a good conduct discharge, and you should be able to turn that into a US passport without too much trouble.

EnlistmentIt doesn’t always work out that way, of course. Some soldiers never get around to doing the naturalization paperwork on discharge, so they end up going back to being a resident alien. That means if they get convicted of even a minor felony, they can be deported, and often banned from the USA for life – despite their service. There’s even an organization in Mexico for US military veterans who’ve been deported; led by a former soldier deported for discharging a firearm, it’s lobbying for a second chance for those who messed up a bit after discharge.

Unlike a lot of people who’re asking for another chance from the US government, these ex-soldiers aren’t claiming injustice or victimization. They admit that they screwed up and that any jail time they earned was merited. What they are saying is that their service should count for something. Maybe the US system doesn’t work perfectly every time, but at least the USA actually has a system. The British government, in the past, has been far too quick to discard overseas soldiers once they’ve taken off their uniform.

The highest profile case was the former Gurkhas who finally won the right to live in the UK a few years ago, but the worst treatment was reserved for South Africans. Their own country decided to make it a criminal offense for South Africans to serve in a foreign army; several hundred of them were in the British Army and suddenly found themselves turned into criminals. Then they realized that not only was there no guarantee of British citizenship on discharge – they didn’t even have the right to stay in the country. The government was perfectly happy to let islamists run around all over the place, but wouldn’t give soldiers permission to remain.

Immigration laws exist for a reason, but if there’s ever a case for cutting someone a little slack surely it’s for former soldiers. If somebody’s good enough to risk their lives for our countries, surely they’re good enough to live there too.

Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.

Fergus Mason

Fergus Mason grew up in the west of Scotland. After attending university he spent 14 years in the British Army and served in Bosnia, Northern Ireland, Kosovo and Iraq. Afterwards, he went to Afghanistan as a contractor, where he worked in Kabul, Mazar-e-Sharif and Camp Leatherneck. He now writes on a variety of topics including current affairs and military matters.
Fergus Mason

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