Friday, May 25, 2007

immigrants in uniform

I feel obliged to point this out given the debate over immigration reform. People who want to curtail immigration generally skip over something important. How many immigrants serve in the armed forces? overseas? in Iraq or Afghanistan?

Some time ago I heard a pundit on TV say that they only recruit 'legal' immigrants into the military. I kind of doubt that even today. But if you go back in time the distinction we make now between 'legal' and 'illegal' immigrants, or 'documented' and 'undocumented' immigrants did not have the connotation it does today. Below is the actual WWI draft card of my grandfather who at 22 would be drafted as the US entered World War I:


Note under section 4 it asks if you are a (1) natural born citizen (2) naturalized citizen (3) alien (4) state your intention of becoming a citizen. His answer: ALIEN and that he was NOT DECLARED when it even came to his intention to seek citizenship. Nonetheless, he would wind up in the Army, serve in the US Army's 339th infantry regiment which was comprised of men drafted in Michigan and Wisconsin which would form the core of the U.S. military intervention in northern Russia at the end of World War I. The irony is that they sent in Michiganers because someone had the bright idea that they could handle the brutal cold of Archangel in the winter. (something we might call a GOBI today for those who know the military term). So there was my poor grandfather, not long off the boat after arriving from never chilly Crete being sent to the coldest inhabited part of the world because he had the bad fortune of settling in Detroit.

Hey, where is my buddy from Ypsilanti?

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