Image by Markus Winkler

Press and Commentary


by Elizabeth M.F. Grasmeder

The Washington Post - August 13, 2021

After hiking for 45 days, Marine veteran Ramon Castro is reportedly nearing the end of a 2,000-mile trek along the U.S.-Mexico border to protest the deportation of noncitizen veterans. Over the past two decades, thousands of noncitizens enlisted in the U.S. military, providing critical contributions to operations in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere.  Despite their service, the U.S. government deported perhaps thousands of these veterans from the nation they fought to defend.

It’s hard to know the exact numbers: in 2019, the Government Accountability Office found that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) didn’t consistently keep records of the numbers of veterans it deported — and didn’t consistently follow special procedures it had established for veterans facing removal.

The modern U.S. military relies deeply on its foreign recruits — roughly 5,000 noncitizens enlist each year. Approximately 24,000 noncitizens are currently serving in uniform. Yet, as Castro’s march underscores, the fates of these noncitizens can be precarious. [...]

US Army Soldier in Universal Camouflage Uniform
Fatmiyoun near Aleppo_edited.jpg

November 23, 2021

*An article by Erik E. Mueller and Andrew Radin of RAND referencing Grasmeder's research on legionnaires.

As hundreds of thousands of Afghans flee their homeland following the Taliban's victory, the United States and international community face an under-appreciated challenge: Some of these refugees could be recruited into state militaries and paramilitaries. As Western policymakers consider how to deal with Afghan evacuees, including former members of the Afghan security forces, they might consider how to prevent adversaries such as Iran from recruiting Afghan refugees for dangerous and destabilizing operations.

Recently, Iran has recruited thousands of Afghans into its Liwa Fatemiyoun, which it has used as “cannon fodder (PDF)” in the war in Syria. But the recruitment of refugees into paramilitaries is not a new phenomenon, and its recurrence may point to its attractiveness to governments.

[...] Research shows that states tend to recruit “legionnaires”—foreign-born individuals—into their military forces when they face recruitment challenges and external threats. An increasing supply of refugees may make recruitment even more attractive, especially if potential recruits have few other options.