diversity

Immigrants, Inclusion and the US Military – by Fiona Citkin

Post-election days are filled with heated conversations wherever you go: Starbucks, farmers’ market, grocery shop, or friendly get-togethers—and it seems people just won’t let it go. Immigration and Inclusion are among the hottest topics. In a campaign interview with CBS “60 Minutes” Donald Trump said we are getting the people who are criminal out of the country, “probably two million, it could be even three million.” Campaign over, I wish our new President would be aware of the fact that the overwhelming majority of immigrants, both legal and undocumented, are so eager to earn the US citizenship that their heroism and sacrifices on the battlefield often demonstrate it.

Diversity as Backbone of Our Military

The US Military has been historically diverse – but their inclusiveness became a reality largely after WWII. It’s interesting to see how things stand there with respect to the immigrants in the uniform—at the time when certain politicians seeking the highest posts of our country cater to anti-immigrant/racist prejudices. Our Military mirrors the diverse US, embracing both native- and foreign-born Americans with immigrants having a proud tradition of military service.
• Approximately 65,000 foreign-born US-Americans serve in the armed forces.
• They represent about 5 % of all active-duty personnel.
• The navy has the highest number of foreign-born personnel – 8%.
• Over 11,000 foreign-born women are serving in the armed forces.
• The top two countries of origin for foreign-born military personnel are the Philippines and Mexico.
Diversity alone isn’t functional without Inclusion, i.e., without fair appreciation of people who prove their devotion to the country putting their lives on the line. Further, inclusive leadership makes our Military an Inclusion blueprint which enhances patriotism and whole-hearted devotion of men and women willing to sacrifice everything for our country.

Inclusion

Foreign-born US service members on active duty deserve appreciation in the form of the US citizenship. A July 2002 executive order made noncitizen members of the armed forces eligible for expedited U.S. citizenship.
• More than 37,250 immigrant service members have become U.S. citizens since 2001.
• 111 military personnel killed in the line of duty since 2001 have been granted posthumous citizenship.

The other form of showing appreciation to the thousands of immigrants in uniform is the Department of Defense supporting the DREAM Act and thus stating that the Military get strengthened by the foreign-born. Among the military leaders who support the DREAM Act is Colin Luther Powell, a second-generation immigrant, born in Harlem as the son of Jamaican immigrants. Prominent Immigrants in the Military

Military embracing courageous immigrants

• General John Shalikashvili, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff who came to the United States from Poland shortly after World War II.
• Alfred Rascon was an undocumented immigrant from Mexico who won the Medal of Honor during the Vietnam War, became a U.S. citizen, and, eventually, Director of the Selective Service System.
• According to CBS News, “The heroism and sacrifice of non-citizens was barely known — until Lance Cpl. Jose Gutierrez died in battle in Iraq. He came from Guatemala, and he came to the United States illegally. He was killed in a tank battle in Iraq in 2003.”

How Are We, America?

America’s diversity landscape, always uneven, has now brought us to the point where the nation faces sharp political confrontations. Our military can be a model for US society. Inclusion should not be an empty word or lip service of over-zealous politically correct individuals. We need sustained efforts to grow and be inclusive.

This is how we are, a nation that remembers: United, We Stand!

Fiona Citkin

Fiona Citkin, Ph.D., a former Fulbright Scholar from Ukraine and a professional diversiculturalist, is a founder and Managing Director of Expert MS Inc., an intercultural business competence consultancy. Based on her professional experiences she published a book “Transformational Diversity: Why and How Intercultural Competencies Can Help Organizations to Survive and Thrive” (SHRM, 2011). Fiona has been recognized as a Top 2012 Champion of Diversity by diversitybusiness.com, a think-tank. She is now working on her new book, “A Second Start: How Women Across Cultures Make It in America and Contribute to America’s Well-Being and Cultural DNA”.

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