Lost in translation

LOST IN TRANSLATION…. I can only hope Tom Tancredo and Lou Dobbs were sitting down when they heard about this one.

The armed forces, already struggling to meet recruiting goals, are considering expanding the number of noncitizens in the ranks — including disputed proposals to open recruiting stations overseas and putting more immigrants on a faster track to US citizenship if they volunteer — according to Pentagon officials.

Foreign citizens serving in the US military is a highly charged issue, which could expose the Pentagon to criticism that it is essentially using mercenaries to defend the country. Other analysts voice concern that a large contingent of noncitizens under arms could jeopardize national security or reflect badly on Americans’ willingness to serve in uniform.

The idea of signing up foreigners who are seeking US citizenship is gaining traction as a way to address a critical need for the Pentagon, while fully absorbing some of the roughly one million immigrants that enter the United States legally each year.

Let me get this straight: The Pentagon is open to having people who aren’t American citizens serve in the military, but they’re not open to having well-trained, patriotic, law-abiding Americans serve, if they happen to be gay.

Just to be clear, my personal take is that both groups of people should be welcome in the military. My grandfather immigrated to the U.S. and became a citizen by virtue of serving in World War I. If the Pentagon wants to consider a program that would accelerate citizenship for legal residents who volunteer for the military, it sounds good to me.

But I can’t help but wonder, if armed forces’ recruiting is struggling to the point in which noncitizens would be welcome, shouldn’t the Defense Department at least consider letting capable, qualified gay volunteers wear the uniform?

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.