Not a day goes by in the media without horrendous and tragic stories about the consequences of the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq. By the title of this post you are probably wondering where “citizenship” comes into the entire debacle of the Afghanistan and Iraq War? Well, apparently in the Washington Post, there is an excellent article on how the U.S. military is offering an incentive, by way of citizenship to thousands of foreign-born, and often poor, immigrants. Essentially, “Jose” is fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan for the U.S. in the hopes that his “patriotic” services will be returned in kind with full U.S. citizenship. Well of course, “Jose” does get U.S. citizenship, but only after he is six feet underground in a coffin! These “green card” soldiers are part of “tens of thousands of foreign-born members in the U.S. armed forces. Many have been naturalized, but more than 20,000 are not U.S. citizens.”
As the article mentions, the U.S. has a history of using immigrants to fight wars. During the Mexican-American War, many Irishmen, escaping the Potato Famine, were recruited to fight, lured by the promise of salaries and land. The Saint Patrick’s Battalion, largely made up of Irish immigrants to the U.S. fought and were instrumental in helping the U.S. army during the start of the war. However, things began to change for the battalion and many of them deserted to fight with the Mexican army. Possible theories for this large scaled desertion are many: mistreatment towards them by other nativist soldiers and senior officers, not being allowed to attend Sunday Mass or to practice their own religion freely, among other motivations. However, the main reasons for the battalion’s desertion was because of shared religious sympathy with the Mexicans (also Catholic) and recognizing the similarities between the situation in Ireland and Mexico.
Bringing up the history of the Saint Patrick’s Battalion is not to say that immigrants cannot be trusted and are not loyal, but to show how the U.S. army manipulated citizenship so that Irish Catholics would be fighting Mexican Catholics, i.e Catholic vs Catholic fighting. Yet again, citizenship is being manipulated so that disinfranchized ethnics and would-be citizens of the U.S. are having to prove their patriotism by fighting Bush’s (and Blair’s) corporate, unjust, and dirty war. Case in point, the article mentions a father of a deceased immigrant soldier-
“Fernando Suarez del Solar just feels angry- angry at what he considers the futility of a war that claimed his only son, angry at the military recruiters he says courted young Jesus relentlessly even when the family still lived in Tijuana.
His son was just 13, Suarez del Solar said, when he was first dazzled by Marine recruiters in a California mall. For the next two years Jesus begged the family to emigrate and eventually they did, settling in Escondido, Calif., where the teen signed up for the Marines before he left high school.
Lance Cpl. Jesus Suarez Del Solar was 20 when he was killed by a bomb in the first week of the war. He left behind a wife and baby and parents so bitter about his death that they eventually divorced.
Today, his 52-year-old father has become an outspoken peace activist who travels the country organizing anti-war marches, giving speeches and working with counter-recruitment groups to dissuade young Latinos from joining the U.S. military.”
Fernando has a valid point to be extremely upset at the U.S.military. Most of those recruited during the early days of the Iraq War came from disadvantaged or ethnic backgrounds. I never saw the U.S. army recruiters in posh or upper middle class neighborhoods, which are of course largely white. Most of the recruitment I witnessed was in lower middle class, largely ethnic neighborhoods. I believe Michael Moore made a point about this in film Fahrenheit 9/11.
As the Washington Post articled mentioned, “Immigrants are lured into service and then used as political pawns or cannon fodder,“ said Dan Kesselbrenner, executive director of the National Immigration Project, a program of the National Lawyers Guild. “It is sad thing to see people so desperate to get status in this country that they are prepared to die for it.”
Yes, indeed it is sad, but it makes me outraged to see immigration manipulated in such a tragic manner.