Pentagon Reopens Program Allowing Immigrants With Special Skills to Enlist; Fast Track to Citizenship

Pentagon Reopens Program Allowing Immigrants With Special Skills to Enlist; Fast Track to Citizenship

"Late last month, the Pentagon reopened a program to recruit legal immigrants with special language and medical skills, which was active for a year in 2009 but was suspended in January 2010.  The program is small; it will enlist a total of 1,500 recruits each year for two years, mainly in the Army.  But military officials said the yearlong pilot program brought an unusually well-educated and skilled cohort of immigrants into the armed services. ... The program is open to immigrants on temporary visas, who otherwise would not be eligible to enlist.  Its powerful lure is that it allows them to naturalize as United States citizens quickly, in most cases at the end of basic training, which lasts about 10 weeks.  Most immigrants on temporary visas, whether they are students or workers with particular skills, must wait years — for some nationalities, more than a decade — to become citizens.  Eileen Lainez, a Pentagon spokeswoman, said the program was intended to fill “some of our most critical readiness needs.”  This time around, the Army is looking for dentists and surgeons, and for psychology professionals to help with the severe emotional strains soldiers have undergone in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.  Officials are also looking for native speakers of 44 languages, including Azerbaijani, Cambodian-Khmer, Hausa and Igbo (both spoken in West Africa), Persian Dari (spoken in Afghanistan), Portuguese, and Tamil (spoken in South Asia)." - New York Times, Oct. 27, 2012.