In response to continued reports that many immigrant U.S. Army reservists and recruits are being discharged and having their legal status questioned, Scott Cooper, founder of Veterans for American Ideals and Director of National Security Outreach at Human Rights First issued the following statement:
Military service is one of the most honorable traditions of this nation. The armed forces have maintained a strong legacy of inclusion since the founding of the republic. These men and women are willing to earn their citizenship by giving back to the country that welcomed them. They have openly and publicly declared their loyalty to the United States. Moreover, the military needs their unique skill sets, from language proficiency to medical skills deemed vital to military operations and in short supply among U.S.-born troops. There is a very real and terrifying possibility that if deported, they could be at risk for violence because of their loyalty to America, and we can’t let that happen.
Emir Hadzic, a retired U.S. Marine, combat veteran, current police officer in St. Louis, MO, and Bosnian refugee who joined the military after immigrating to the United States added:
I was given an opportunity by the Marine Corps even though I was an immigrant newly arrived from what was termed a ‘hostile country.’ I proudly served for twenty years, sacrificing and putting my life on the line for my fellow Americans. Whether it was during my time as an infantry grunt, a platoon sergeant, or a foreign military advisor, there was always one incontrovertible truth, the United States is a nation of immigrants, and so should be its military. Time after time, foreign-born service members proved to be assets and force multipliers in our overseas missions. We love our homeland and will continue loving it and serving if called upon, but after hearing about this policy I’m starting to feel like a second-class citizen.
Veterans for American Ideals, a project of Human Rights First, has long-advocated on the behalf of Iraqi and Afghan interpreters and translators who are in danger for their service alongside U.S. armed forces. Like them, the men and women reportedly being discharged were given promises in exchange for their service.
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