Immigrants and the Military: 7 Important Facts

Fri, May 20, 2016 at 5:20PM


With Memorial Day quickly approaching, we’re thinking about our country and the sacrifices made by servicemen and women to ensure our enduring freedoms. While we reflect on these sacrifices, of course, it’s important to remember the often unsung heroes of US military involvement throughout the centuries: our immigrants.

Those born in other countries have served in our nation’s military since its very beginnings, and they’re worth remembering alongside every fallen service member we honor on Memorial Day. In today’s blog, we’re looking at the history and facts behind immigrants’ essential involvement in the nation’s military.

Some of our earliest wars were fought with help from foreign born soldiers

Much of our country’s success in earlier wars can be attributed to the support of foreign born fighters. This includes staggering numbers in the Civil War, when 20% of the Union Army was comprised of foreign born personnel.

During World War II, naturalization was expedited

Immigrants’ heritage in the nation’s military continued through the 20th century. In World War II, naturalization was expedited for those noncitizens serving in the military. The Second War Powers Act of 1942 waived many of the naturalization requirements so that naturalization could be achieved more easily. This act also allowed, for the first time, the naturalization of citizens while fighting overseas.

Around 8,000 noncitizens—permanent residents or conditional permanent residents—enlist every year

And in 2008, immigrants accounted for about 5% of all active duty service members.

Almost 11% of service members in the military today have a Hispanic background

These service members also show a great commitment to their role in the military. Some statistics have shown that Hispanic noncitizens, in addition to Asian or Pacific Islander noncitizens, are especially less likely to leave the military after having served for at least three months.

Immigrants have contributed so much to our nation’s military, and we know that they and their descendants will continue to play a crucial part in our nation’s armed forces going forward. This Memorial Day, remember fallen service members or reach out to a family who lost someone during war as a sign of your appreciation.  

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