Despite the mounting evidence of these recruitment practices, the Pentagon denies that illegal immigrants are in the military. “If there are any,” says Pentagon spokesman Joseph Burlas, “then they have fraudulently enlisted, and when they’re caught, they are discharged.”

That is what happened to Army Pvt Juan Escalante, whose illegal status was discovered while he was serving in Iraq. He was discharged and shipped home, and ICE began deportation proceedings against him and his parents, who had smuggled him into the United States from Mexico when he was four years old. However, Escalante’s unit commander wrote a letter on his behalf, saying he had served with distinction, so ICE reversed its decision and accepted his citizenship application. The deportation case against his parents, who also have two U.S.-born children, is still pending.

What recruiters do not tell their targets, however, is that the military itself has no authority to grant citizenship. It forwards their citizenship applications to ICE, which will then scrutinize them and their entire families for up to a year. Created under the Homeland Security Act of 2002 as the successor to the law enforcement arms of both the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) and the U.S. Customs Service, ICE has been tasked “to more effectively enforce our immigration and customs laws and protect the United States against terrorist attacks.” ICE does this, as its website explains, “by targeting illegal immigrants: the people, money and materials that support terrorism and other criminal activities.”

Recruiters also do not tell their targets that citizenship can be denied for the very same past criminal offenses that the military may have overlooked when admitting them—such as being in the country illegally.

As the war in Iraq drags on and recruiters step up their efforts to enlist high school students—even demanding the right to come into classrooms—teachers, parents, and students themselves are doing what they can to slow the rate of enlistment of young immigrants who believe that military service is their path to citizenship. But as long as American citizenship remains a kind of salvation myth for the Latino community, military recruiters will be able to exploit their longing for it.

The Comprehensive Immigration Reform Bill (S 1639), which failed to pass the Senate in June, proposed to give legal permanent residency to any “alien who has served in the uniformed services for at least 2 years and, if discharged, has received an honorable discharge.” In other words, illegal immigrants have been in the military all along, and the government was getting ready to admit it. Now, with the bill’s defeat, they will be forced to remain hidden, and the sacrifices they have made for this country will continue to go unacknowledged.

33 Thoughts to “How Many Illegal Aliens Are Serving in Iraq and Afghanistan Today?”

  1. LuckyDuck

    Elena, with all due respect, you have a lot of suppositions in your thread above..

    1. “What recruiters do not tell their targets, however, is that the military itself has no authority to grant citizenship.” Do you have actual proof this is happening on consistent, nationwide basis? How do you actually know that Pvt. Esclante did not fraudulently enter the service?

    2. “Recruiters also do not tell their targets that citizenship can be denied for the very same past criminal offenses that the military may have overlooked when admitting them—such as being in the country illegally.” Again, do you have specific instances this is happening from “recruiters”? If so, which ones?

    3. “But as long as American citizenship remains a kind of salvation myth for the Latino community, military recruiters will be able to exploit their longing for it.” Again, which recruiters are doing this? Are some? Are all? Are none?

    4. “The Comprehensive Immigration Reform Bill (S 1639), which failed to pass the Senate in June, proposed to give legal permanent residency to any “alien who has served in the uniformed services for at least 2 years and, if discharged, has received an honorable discharge.” In other words, illegal immigrants have been in the military all along, and the government was getting ready to admit it.” I read this as meaning those LEGAL immigrants who were not yet citizens or going through the slow process would be expedited or granted citizenship because of their service. You make the supposition that the military is admitting there are illegal aliens in the ranks – a violation of US military policy.

    I admit our immigration system is a complete disaster and we need reform across the board, but this thread reeks of (to me at least) of illegal alien support – which I do not support. We need reform, not pandering to those here illegally nor pandering to those extremist on the other side.

    What about the millions of American Citizens and resident Aliens serving today as I write? Those are men and women who deserve our support for what they do everyday.

  2. Marie

    I know that undocumented immigrant males, when turning 18, are required to file papers with the Selective Service. This is a fact and I know several young males, brought to the US by their parents, who received notice from the Selective Service to enroll, Which they all did.This means if there is a draft they will be drafted.

    When my husband was in the military, back during the Vietnam era, there were many latinos serving who were not documented. It was their path to citizenship. I do not know what has changed but I assure you that undocumented have been serving since WWII. I guess things changed after 9/11.I plan to do some research.

  3. Marie

    Here is an interesting video. I am inclined to think this goes on everywhere and that there are more undocumented immigrants serving than we know about.

  4. Marie

    As a daughter of a WWII veteran and the wife of a Vietnam Vet, I go each year to the National Cemetary in Arlington to remember and to honor all those who fought for my freedom. I loved this commentary by Andy Rooney last night on 60 Minutes. So, in case you did not see the show I think this is worth reading.

    The following is a weekly 60 Minutes commentary by CBS News correspondent Andy Rooney.

    Tomorrow is Memorial Day, the day we have set aside to honor by remembering all the Americans who have died fighting for the thing we like the most about our America: the freedom we have to live as we please.

    No official day to remember is adequate for something like that. It’s too formal. It gets to be just another day on the calendar. No one would know from Memorial Day that Richie M., who was shot through the forehead coming onto Omaha Beach on June 6, 1944, wore different color socks on each foot because he thought it brought him good luck.

    No one would remember on Memorial Day that Eddie G. had promised to marry Julie W. the day after he got home from the war, but didn’t marry Julie because he never came home from the war. Eddie was shot dead on an un-American desert island, Iwo Jima.

    For too many Americans, Memorial Day has become just another day off. There’s only so much time any of us can spend remembering those we loved who have died, but the men, boys really, who died in our wars deserve at least a few moments of reflection during which we consider what they did for us.

    They died.

    We use the phrase “gave their lives,” but they didn’t give their lives. Their lives were taken from them.

    There is more bravery at war than in peace, and it seems wrong that we have so often saved this virtue to use for our least noble activity – war. The goal of war is to cause death to other people.

    Because I was in the Army during World War II, I have more to remember on Memorial Day than most of you. I had good friends who were killed.

    Charley Wood wrote poetry in high school. He was killed when his Piper Cub was shot down while he was flying as a spotter for the artillery.

    Bob O’Connor went down in flames in his B-17.

    Obie Slingerland and I were best friends and co-captains of our high school football team. Obie was killed on the deck of the Saratoga when a bomb that hadn’t dropped exploded as he landed.

    I won’t think of them anymore tomorrow, Memorial Day, than I think of them any other day of my life.

    Remembering doesn’t do the remembered any good, of course. It’s for ourselves, the living. I wish we could dedicate Memorial Day, not to the memory of those who have died at war, but to the idea of saving the lives of the young people who are going to die in the future if we don’t find some new way – some new religion maybe – that takes war out of our lives.

    That would be a Memorial Day worth celebrating.

    Written By Andy Rooney
    © MMVIII, CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.

  5. Moon-howler

    Well Marie, That is certainly a show stopper. Very powerful. Thank you for sharing it.

    One only has to look at the Manassas Christmas parade to see that many Latinos have been recruited for military service. I have no idea what has been promised them. The ROTC units who marched in the parade from area schools were comprised mostly of Latino students. The kids I have known in ROTC are very proud of their accomplishments here.

    The honesty factor here is a big part of this equation in my mind. I know that my son was hounded like a dog to join up. Recruiters are merciless. If the kids are being dealt with honestly, I feel it is a wonderful opportunity. If things are being promised to them that will not be delivered, then those reeling them in should be run out of town on a rail.

  6. Moon-howler

    Here is the link to the Andy Rooney commentary. I was curious just how old he really is. He was born in 1919. Totally amazing. He does look a bit older than he did about 25 years ago. I enjoyed the pictures of those about whom he spoke.

  7. Elena

    Lucky Duck,
    I am not saying that this story is 1000 % true, but it bears investigation. I know my girlfriends son, when he was being recruited by the marines, was told he would NOT go to Iraq if he went into this specific field. My girlfriend was sitting next to him when he was told this. Long story short, he is getting ready to serve his second tour in Iraq. I might add here, that Cindy Sheehan’s son was told almost the same thing, he would not go to Iraq,well, we know he was then killed while serving in Iraq. Now, to actually believe, that in a time of war, you are excluded from going, does not seem very smart, but, if someone in authority is telling you this, why wouldn’t you believe it. There is more in the article about the the actual new legislation Bush signed to make joining the armed forces more difficult if you are not documented. All I am saying, is with the armed forces so severely stretched and recruitment down, that seems like the perfect recipe for actions that could be seen as questionable.

  8. elvis

    I would totally take the above with a grain of salt…military recruiting and immigration are totally different things. so if you took this to court here’s the deal. the guy is an adult, he should have reviewed the enlistment contract, should have not fraudulently enlisted (a crime). however if his CO decided that he’s served with distinction, that’s enough for me and carries a whole hell of a lot of weight. but I dont think the guy deserves a total pass. Military personnel should be granted expedited citizenship and they are but only if they are here legally.

    they are ratcheting down the enlistment requirements now that the war is going on, however with the new administration you can bet that people are going to be coming home and those requirements will be re-instated soon. So the question here is the same as everything else we are discussing. should the fact that a person committed a crime be disregarded because the person has comitted a certain amount of good deeds? how many good deeds does it take to eliminate the act of lawlessness? Do you give a murderer a pass because he spent the rest of his life committing good deeds? you could ask stanley “tookie” williams that question, but you cannot because he was executed for his crimes.

  9. Elvis,

    Undocumented people haven’t committed anything immoral. They are powerless. They have been abused by our system. They are the ones having crimes committed against them by people like you. You are the one who is immoral.

    If we were a moral nation over this issue, we would have an immigration system that allowed people to come here to work, if there was a demand. Instead, we have a huge demand for labor but refuse to give them legal status so they can fight for their rights and higher wages, thereby raising wages for americans who work in the same fields.

    Elvis, immigrants are not immoral, our abusive exploitative immigration system and people like you who support it are immoral.

  10. Lucky Duck

    Elena, we’re talking about two different things. Your daughter’s boyfriend was told he would not go to Iraq and now he’s going ( I pray that he remains safe), that is completely different from the suppositions you put forth in the above thread. Please read your quotes again, they do not ask for an investigation, your quotes state several things that military recruiters tell (illegal) immigrants and I am merely asking for specific instances or proof of these allegations. I would not post such statements without data to back them up. Your asking for an investigation into POTENTIAL issues with recruitment is totally different than your writing above stating exactly what military recruiters are doing. By the way, I am not, nor ever been military.

  11. Lucky Duck

    Mackie, you’re a little hard on Elvis. One person’s morality should not be imposed upon another. The fact is that illegal immigrants have violated a civil law of the United States. Whether you believe that is moral or not is up to you, but you should you impose your morality standards on Elvis? The fact is, illegal entry IS a violation.

    I don’t think our immigration policy is immoral, (if you do, good for you) but its broken beyond use. But the taking of advantage is from both sides, the workers are sometimes exploited but the illegal immigrants exploit our system to enter and stay without permission.

  12. Juturna

    There was an executive order by Pres. Bush that sped up the citizenship process for non citizens – maybe that is the confusion. The Military can’t neither control nor promise citizenship. Whether certain recruiters are or are not making these promises may be at issue.

    It it my understanding that throughout history, recent immigrants have been a large pool for military recruiters. Now, though, recruiters appear desperate. Local governments that hire for public safety need to now think twice about recruiting from the military or using military standards.

  13. Juturna

    … can neither control nor promise citizenship

  14. Elena

    Lucky Duck,
    It is a civil violation in cases where you crossed the border without documentation. Clearly NOT the same level of criminality as murder!

    Are you saying that people are lying about their experiences with the recruiting officers? Especially those whose children have signed up?

    The problems with President Bush’s executive order is that it is in DIRECT conflict with DHS and ICE. Illegal immigrants are now a much higher priority to detain. We have two opposing forces at play here.

  15. Lucky Ducky,

    Mackie, you’re a little hard on Elvis.

    If Elvis doesn’t like it…he can leave the building.

  16. Moon-howler

    Elvis, where were you Friday night? You said you would be there and I was there ready to help ply you with liquor. Tsk Tsk.

  17. LuckyDuck

    Mackie, there is supposed to be a difference between this blog and the other. Nobody should have to leave.

  18. LuckyDuck

    Elena, no, obviously crossing the border without documentation is not on the same level as murder. I am not saying that. Mackie was saying it was not immoral and that is HIS opinion. In fact it IS a civil violation of US Law, like it or not. Do we get to pick and choose which civil statutes we don’t want to follow because WE as an individuals don’t like them? We as a society have enacted rules we all have to follow. If we don’t like them, then in our democracy, we vote to change.

    As for do I not believe your assertions about recruiters…you didn’t cite any people. All that is in your posts are statements you accepted as facts and I asked for supporting data.

  19. Elena

    Lucky Duck,
    You noticed I asked a question and gave no commentary to this article. I can only tell you of the personal experience of my best friend and her son. Can I extrapolate more to this specific instance, no, but it does beg the question, “how often does this happen?”
    and is there an issue of illegal immigrants being offered eroneous promises of citizenship. I dont’ know.

  20. “by targeting illegal immigrants: the people, money and materials that support terrorism and other criminal activities.”

    That’s about the WORST, myth-promoting wording I can think of for ICE or any U.S. agency to have on its website or anywhere else. Where are our smart people??

    Andy Rooney was one of those gems I grew up with. Thanks, Marie, for posting that commentary. He continues to amaze and inspire. He’s truly a legend.

  21. BTW, there are lying recruiters and sales people in every sector. They all need to pinned up in a field like scare crows as far as I am concerned. Throw them some corn now and then. These people ruin and destroy lives.

  22. Hey what’s up? Is there no BOCS meeting tomorrow? I didn’t see it on their schedule.

  23. Lucky Duck

    Ok, thanks Elena.

  24. Marie

    Lucky Duck and Elvis,
    Did you watch this video? It seems that military recruiters are recruiting undocumented. Watch closely and listen to what the teacher has to say. I think there is probably lots of this going on, with lots of promises and probably lots of enlistees.

    Thanks, kgotthardt. I think Andy Rooney is inspiring, too. Can you believe he is about 89 years old. I hope I can live that long and that I am doing as well when I am his age.

  25. Elena

    Lucky Duck,
    This sargent, along with four others, are being courtmartailed for providing false documents to illegal aliens during their recruitment.

    What do you think? Our armed forces is in crisis, soldiers are serving more time overseas than they should, it would not surprise me if getting illegal aliens to join the armed servies was more prevelant than we actually know.

  26. Admin,

    Could we please start a thread to discuss the democratic candidates for Va’s 11th congressional district which includes some of prince william county.

    The democratic primary for the district is on June 10th. One of the issues they’ve been discussing in their last debates has been immigration (they’ve specifically discussed PWC’s resolution) and it has been very interesting to see the range of opinions they hold. One democrat is calling immigrants thieving, diseased, child molesters. One says we should just not talk about the issue. And two oppose PWC’s resolution.

    Here’s a vid about immigration from their first debate:

    Here’s a vid of their whole second debate:

  27. Elena

    good idea mackie

  28. Laurie M

    Foreign nationals have always been in the US military. Alot of Canadians volunteered and enlisted to fight in Vietnam.

    The quality of recruit is going downhill fast, and the military is waivering felonies etc that would have made a recruit ineligible before. As far as illegals in the military, I know of two cases where undocumented fraudulently enlisted using someone else’s info.
    There are also several cases of undocumented females marrying military service members and not revealing their status until “after”, fully expecting that as a military spouse their application will be fast-tracked and their “status” problems are over — not so! One such “spouse” gave my spouse a death threat when he had her removed from housing and reported to ICE. The Marine is in the process of divorcing the same individual — lying about her status was just the beginning of a long trail of lies and deceit and drama.

    One of the recruiters in Manassas was our tenant; he would often get undocumented unsolicited who wanted to join and he would turn them away.

    Personally, I have no problem with anyone who wants to join of their own volition, as long as they can pass a background check. (there are concerns about gang members joining the military for the “free” training). And anyone who serves in the military should be given citizenship — they have earned it — but it shouldn’t extend to their families.

    I also am curious as to why you would choose to post this provactive subject on Memorial Day weekend. To me, it dishonors the memory of those who did serve honorably. Is there no low to which you will stoop to advance your propaganda? For shame.

  29. Elena

    I don’t think it is shameful to honor those who are serving, no matter what their “status” is when they joinded to serve in the armed forces. You will also note the Rolling Thunder post was posted ON Memorial Day.

  30. Emma

    Actually, I think recruiting illegals for military service is just fine–allow them to serve some minimum–four years, maybe–and then fast-track to citizenship–maybe even faster if they deploy to a war zone. I’m not sure where I stand on automatically legalizing family members. I can see some potential for abuse there. But I can go so far as to say that if they serve the U.S. honorably, then it’s a win-win–they are working, paying taxes, advancing in rank and hopefully education, gaining marketable skills, assimilating to a great extent, and filling an urgent national need. I have many issues with illegal immigration, but this has never been one of them.

  31. Elena

    I agree 100% with you Emma. I do wonder about family though, what about limiting sponsorship to parents, spouse, and any children?

  32. Emma

    aaagh–then we get into the definition of family and all that stuff that got the City of Manassas in so much heat. I also would hate to see it become a “marry a soldier and get instant U.S. citizenship” kind of deal. Perhaps some sort of conditional legal residency for immediate family–spouse, children–to become permanent when the soldier fulfills his/her obligation. I’m not sure about the best way to handle that, but I think anyone who is willing and able to fulfill a four-year commitment–who will fight and possibly die for the U.S– is deserving of citizenship. I would hope that four years would be sufficient time to weed out the abusers.

    I just wonder how the Mexican government, for example, would react to the possibility of supplying the U.S. with an army. That would be very interesting, indeed.

  33. Elena

    See Emma,
    Somewhere, we can find common ground. This is where compromise begins, one small step at a time.

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