1991 Armed Forces Immigration Adjustment Act


January 30, 1991, Senator Ted Kennedy sponsored a bill and President George Bush, Sr. thought it would be a great idea to sign it into law. This legislation was an amendment to current immigration law which would include reform specifically designed for military personnel. The new legislation provided special immigration status for military personnel who had served honorably for twelve years. This status was to include spouses and children. For non-citizen military personnel who had not yet served twelve years, if they had committed to re-enlistment to cover a twelve year span, they and their family would have their status adjusted to permanent resident until such time as they completed their duty requirements. Then they would be eligible for naturalization.

What the gringa doesn’t understand, is why do they not qualify for naturalization within five years like other immigrants? Why would any immigrant want to serve in the military if it meant they would have to serve twelve years before qualifying for citizenship? They could just remain a civilian immigrant, renewing their visa, staying employed or enrolled in school, and qualify in five years as a civilian. After the evidence of statistics and senior officer testimony in 1968 affirmed the quality of service provided by immigrant military personnel, why would the U.S. government do anything that would deter immigrants from enlisting? As the gringa scratched her head over this one, it took quite a bit of digging around to discover what this legislation was really all about. Once I did, it finally met with my approval.

The 1968 legislation only provided for expedited naturalization for military personnel involved in hostilities. The Vietnam War and Cambodian Civil War both ended in 1975. Although the U.S. was involved in many military operations around the world after 1975, the country was not involved in an actual war until August 2, 1990, when the Persian Gulf War officially began as Operation Desert Shield. There was a gap of time where many non-citizen military personnel did not qualify for expedited naturalization because they were not involved in hostilities during the time of their enlistment. This legislation was to remedy that fact and honor those service men and women with the citizenship status they deserved.

Provision was also made for 2,000 immigrants annually from countries the U.S. had treaties with (not including their spouses and children) and 100 annually from countries the U.S. did not have treaties with (not counting their spouses and children). This inclusion of immigrants from countries the United States may or may not have had treaties with was important because, at the time of this bill’s passage, the Gulf War was still going on, although its conclusion was in sight. In fact, it was actually less than a month away. There would be foreign nationals who had assisted U.S. efforts and it would not be safe for them to remain in their countries of origin. They and their families would need to flee to a place of safety. The gringa is proud of the United States for considering these humanitarian needs as well as remaining loyal to those who served in such a capacity. These special immigrants were considered refugees, given permanent resident status and provided with resettlement appropriations.

The scope of this immigration reform bill was narrow and specifically designed with the non-citizen soldier in mind. Tweaking immigration law in such a way as this reflects upon a government that is much more aware of what really needs to be done for immigration reform than they let on. Oftentimes the nation’s politicians throw up their hands and act as if immigration reform is so complicated they can’t possibly put together a bill the majority of legislators will agree on. That’s a big, fat lie. If they stick to simple, narrow measures, tweaking details here and there, they can, over time, get much done. A little bit of progress is better than none. The citizens of the nation have to put pressure on government leaders on behalf of the non-citizen who does not have any real influence as a non-registered voter. The citizens who care must speak for them and demand meaningful immigration reform.

Sources:

http://library.uwb.edu/guides/usimmigration/1991_armed_forces_immigration_adjustment_act.html

https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/102/s296

https://www.congress.gov/bill/102nd-congress/senate-bill/296

http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/87576.pdf

Photo credit: http://www.slideshare.net

Published by

gringaofthebarrio

A barrio gringa with a dream of cosmic proportions: writing to satiate my insatiable curiosity, worldwide literacy beginning with our youth, and to be the first barrio gringa to explore outer space!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s