“They find themselves in a patriotic purgatory.”
I’ll never forget the day. It was two months after the terror attacks of September 11, 2001. I raised my hand and swore that I would support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I would bear true faith and allegiance to the same. What the hell did I know about any of that? I was 18 years old. But I knew enough then that I had to serve my country.
In that small brown room, surrounded by other recruits, we prepared to leave for basic training. Some of the recruits standing next to me that day weren’t American citizens. They were immigrants who swore the same oath as I with the promise that in doing so they would earn a pathway to American citizenship. They knew more than enough.
According to the Department of Defense this promise was kept for nearly 110,000 immigrants who gained citizenship by serving in the U.S. military since September 11th, 2001.
However, now this promise is being broken. While the total number of recruits is unknown, there are now more than 40 immigrants who have served in our Armed Forces that are being booted and given an “uncharacterized discharge,” thus ensuring that they won’t become citizens.
For the service members to earn citizenship they need an honorable discharge and an uncharacterized discharge is neither honorable or dishonorable. They find themselves in a patriotic purgatory.
This uncharacterized discharge could also affect the legal status of the immigrant service member. According to the Associated Press, the Department of Defense said, “All service members (recruits with a signed contract, active duty, guard, and reserve) and those veterans with honorable discharges are protected from deportation.” This effectively excludes those service members caught up in the methodical deterioration of immigration policies set forth by the Trump Administration.
Trump campaigned on promises that he would be the best for national security and place restrictions on immigrants coming to this country. What they have failed to realize is that this puts our country’s national security at risk.
The Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest program ensured that we are able to bring much needed medical specialists, fluent speakers of over 44 languages, and other vital professions into the military. And yes, under the Trump administration that too has been suspended.
Is this how we treat military veterans? Because that is who these people are. They are my fellow military veterans, all of whom decided that they would put their lives on the line for a country that they were promised they could be a part of.
They’ve earned the right to claim American citizenship.
They’ve done more than President “Bone Spurs” Trump to earn it.
The very birth of our nation relied upon immigrants fighting for the shared cause of liberty and a place free from tyranny. This practice has been carried out for our entire history. Now, we share a view of the current presidency through a tyrannical lens with the rest of the world.
Aryanna Berringer is the Pittsburgh Current’s Political columnist. Reach her at Aryanna@pittsburghcurrent.com