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By Phil Hall | August 22, 2010

This documentary short, which was created by students from the University of California at Berkeley, provides a warped glimpse of non-citizen immigrants serving in the U.S. military. Immigrants make up 5% of today’s U.S. military, and half of that group consists of green card holders.  This is hardly a recent phenomenon, since the strategy of recruiting foreign-born individuals to fight in American conflicts goes back to the Revolutionary War.

Military enrollment can serve as a fast track for an immigrant seeking citizenship – sometimes the process can run as quickly as six months.  But the film actually offers a somewhat cynical view of a system that is being misused through its brief profiles of two immigrants who joined the Army for somewhat selfish reasons. One story involves a young man from Ghana is using his newfound citizenship primarily to bring his family to resettle in the U.S. (he speaks ruefully about renouncing his lifelong pledge of allegiance to his native country), while the other involves a young lady from Peru who saw the Army as a cost-effective way to gain a medical school degree that would have otherwise been outside of her financial abilities.

On the flip side, there is a third profile involving a Mexican-born youth who enlisted in the Army but was killed in Iraq before starting the naturalization process – and a lapse in completing the paperwork prevented him from earning posthumous citizenship.

This strange little film raises more questions than its brief running time can answer. A full-length documentary on this subject would be more than welcome.

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