HR 4041 – Fighting for the Rights of Americans who Fight for our Country and happen to be Transgendered

HR 4041 – Fighting for the Rights of Americans who Fight for our Country and happen to be Transgendered

Mr. Trump has made it abundantly clear that he intends to revoke the right to serve in the military from Americans who are transgendered. A quick review of his statements and policy pronouncements from this past summer make this abundantly clear.

In July Mr. Trump tweeted: “After consultation with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military”. “Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail.” “Thank you,” (http://www.cnn.com/2017/08/25/politics/trump-transgender-military/index.html).

And in late August (8/25/17) Mr. Trump wrote a memorandum for the Secretary of Defense noting that in his judgment President Obama did not have sufficient evidence to overturn the prohibition of openly transgendered individuals serving in the military: “In my judgment, the previous Administration failed to identify a sufficient basis to conclude that terminating the Departments’ longstanding policy and practice would not hinder military effectiveness and lethality, disrupt unit cohesion, or tax military resources, and there remain meaningful concerns that further study is needed to ensure that continued implementation of last year’s policy change would not have those negative effects,” (http://www.the-president.us/date/2017/08/25). This memorandum directed the military to halt movement towards the recruitment of transgendered individuals and notified the Department of Defense that it cannot provide any medical treatment for transgender individuals currently serving in the military. (http://www.the-president.us/date/2017/08/25, http://www.cnn.com/2017/08/25/politics/trump-transgender-military/index.html)

These pronouncements show that Mr. Trump is peeling back the rights of transgendered Americans and wants to return to an era when transgendered individuals could not serve openly in the military – in accordance with the new sentiments of our federal government, the military, as of June 2017, has imposed a six month wait time before it begins to allow openly transgendered individuals from serving, that is unless the President outright bans this (https://www.nbcnews.com/news/amp/ncna776131).

Needless to say, this assault on the rights of Americans is and should be opposed. 45 Senators and 15 Attorney Generals have written (separate) letters urging the Defense Secretary not to implement the ban/stating their opposition to the proposed ban of transgendered Americans serving in the military (https://www.nbcnews.com/news/amp/ncna787661, http://abcnews.go.com/amp/US/wireStory/15-attorneys-general-oppose-trump-transgender-military-ban-50515994). Lamda Legal and OutServe SLDN filed an injunction against the transgender ban and have filed a lawsuit on behalf of six transgendered service members and three organizations. For information on these lawsuits: https://www.lambdalegal.org/news/wa_20170914_lambda-legal-asks-court-to-halt-trans-ban, https://www.lambdalegal.org/blog/20170914_lambda-legal-asks-court-to-halt-trans-ban, https://www.outserve-sldn.org/. And now it is our turn….

H.R. 4041 has been introduced into the House and is currently being reviewed by the House Committee on Armed Services, on which Rep. Duncan Hunter sits. H.R. 4041 is neither long, complex nor complicated and bursts with common sense. It reads, minus paragraph and subsection titles, as follows, “It is the sense of Congress that individuals who are qualified and can meet the standards to serve in the military should be eligible to serve…. A currently serving member of the Armed Forces may not be involuntarily separated from the Armed Forces, or denied reenlistment or continuation in service in the Armed Forces, solely on the basis of the member’s gender identity. Nothing in this subsection relieves a member from meeting applicable military and medical standards, including deployability, or requires retention of the member in service if the member fails to meet such standards…. The Secretary of Defense shall complete the review of policy on the accession of transgender individuals into the Armed Forces announced by the Secretary on June 30, 2017, by not later than December 31, 2017….Not later than February 21, 2018, the Secretary shall submit to Congress a comprehensive report on the results of the review of policy described in paragraph (1)” (https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/4041/text?q=%7B%22search%22%3A%5B%22HR+4041%22%5D%7D&r=1).

Finally, there have been multiple studies done on the impact of transgendered individuals in the military and all of the studies have found that there is no/would be no predicted negative impact:

“A 2016 Rand Corp. study commissioned by the Defense Department concluded that letting transgender people serve openly would have a “minimal impact” on readiness and health care costs, largely because there are so few in the military’s 1.3 million-member force…. The study put the number of transgender people in the military… between 1,320 and 6,630,” (http://www.cnn.com/2017/08/25/politics/trump-transgender-military/index.html); while a study done in 2014 by the Williams Institute at UCLA found that there are 150,000 transgendered Americans who either were or who had served in the US military (https://williamsinstitute.law.ucla.edu/wp-content/uploads/Transgender-Military-Service-May-2014.pdf).

The Rand Corp. study goes on to estimate that the military would fund, 30 – 140 new hormone treatments a year and 25 – 130 gender transition-related surgeries among active service members annually. Estimates of the costs for these procedures range from $2.4 million – $8.4 million a year. In dollars and cents this is an “exceedingly small proportion” of the military’s budget as well as the military’s total health care costs and would represent an increase to military spending of about.04 – .13% (https://www.rand.org/pubs/research_reports/RR1530.html).

In addition the 2016 Rand Corp. looked at past integration efforts and experiences in other countries and determined that, “Minimal Likely Impact on Force Readiness [would arise]” and specifically that “The limited research on the effects of foreign military policies indicates little or no impact on unit cohesion, operational effectiveness, or readiness. Commanders noted that the policies had benefits for all service members by creating a more inclusive and diverse force.” And that “Policy changes to open more roles to women and to allow gay and lesbian personnel to serve openly in the U.S. military have similarly had no significant effect on unit cohesion, operational effectiveness, or readiness.” (https://www.rand.org/pubs/research_reports/RR1530.html)

The recommendations made by the Rand Corp. are as follows “DoD [Department of Defense] should ensure strong leadership and identify and communicate the benefits of an inclusive and diverse workforce to successfully implement a policy change and successfully integrate openly serving transgender service members into the force. DoD should develop an explicit written policy on all aspects of the gender transition process to minimize any impact on service member or unit readiness. DoD should provide education and training to the rest of the force on transgender personnel policy, and it should integrate this training with other diversity-related training and education. DoD should develop and enforce a clear anti-harassment policy that addresses harassment aimed at transgender personnel alongside other targets of harassment. DoD should make subject-matter experts and gender advisers serving within military units available to commanders seeking guidance or advice on gender transition–related issues,” (https://www.rand.org/pubs/research_reports/RR1530.html).

The Palm Center in a 2014 report found, “Our central conclusion is that formulating and implementing inclusive policy is administratively feasible and neither excessively complex nor burdensome,” and stated “Inclusion of transgender personnel, however, is not primarily about administrative matters, but about core military values and principles: all military personnel should serve with honor and integrity, which means that they should not have to lie about who they are; all members of the military should be treated with respect; all persons capable of serving their country should be allowed to do so; and the military should not needlessly separate personnel who are willing and able to serve” (http://www.palmcenter.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/Report-of-Planning-Commission-on-Transgender-Military-Service_0-2-1.pdf).

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HR 3102 Helping Non-US-Citizen Military Personnel Navigate the Immigration Process

HR 3102 Helping Non-US-Citizen Military Personnel Navigate the Immigration Process

It is easy to forget that since the inception of America, individuals who were not US citizens have fought alongside US citizens in every war – from the Revolution and Civil War right on down to our current wars. In bygone ages it was one way for an immigrant community to prove how loyal and American they actually were, for example there were three Irish only units during the Civil War (http://www.history.com/topics/american-civil-war/the-irish-brigade).

“Since the American Revolution, immigrants have been woven into the fabric of our military. According to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the foreign-born composed half of all military recruits by the 1840s, and were 20 percent of the 1.5 million service members in the Union Army during the Civil War. Reportedly, half a million foreign-born troops from 46 countries served in World War I, amounting to 10 percent of the U.S. armed forces. During World War II, Congress expedited naturalization applications of noncitizens serving honorably in the U.S. armed forces, exempted them from existing age, race, and residence requirements, and ‘eliminated the requirement for proof of lawful entry to the U.S.’ Noncitizens served in the Vietnam, Korea, and Desert Storm conflicts, and immigrant service continues to be of vital importance in the post-September 11 period of conflict. Roughly 70,000 noncitizens enlisted into active duty service between 1999 and 2008, representing about 4 percent of all new enlistments. As recently as 2012, there were 24,000 noncitizens in the military, with 5,000 [lawful permanent residents (LPRs)] LPRs enlisting every year…. Overall, there are about 608,000 living foreign-born veterans of the U.S. armed forces from all over the globe,” (http://www.courthousenews.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/DISCHARGED-THEN-DISCARDED-fixed.pdf). Throughout our history it has been and still is Congress that grants permission and sets the requirements for non-US-citizens to participate in the military. To learn more about the current requirements, go to page 14 of the above pdf.

Despite service to their adopted home, many service members and Veterans do not gain assistance navigating the complex immigration process, which many people need legal help to complete, and which can prove to be life changing if the service member or Veteran gets into legal troubles or other situations that can result in deportation. It should be noted that having a clear criminal history is a requirement for getting into the military and many experts argue that legal problems often arise in part due to the experiences war exposes people to. The well documented struggles transitioning out of the military to civilian life as well as the mental health struggles of Veterans apply regardless of the individual’s citizenship status (http://www.courthousenews.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/DISCHARGED-THEN-DISCARDED-fixed.pdf).

HR 3102 aims to rectify this injustice by creating an “Office of Service Member Naturalization” within the Department of Defense (https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/3102/text?q=%7B%22search%22%3A%5B%22HR+3102%22%5D%7D&r=1). The purpose of this office would be: “(1) to identify members of the uniformed services, including new recruits, who are not citizens of the United States; (2) to inform such members of the availability of naturalization assistance to facilitate such members in becoming citizens; (3) to help such members complete the naturalization process before their separation from the uniformed services; and (4) to coordinate points-of-contact at military installations to ensure that personnel who are responsible for assisting members through the naturalization process successfully complete their assignments,” (source: see above). These points of contact would make the necessary forms (Form N–400, Application for Naturalization, and Form N–426, Request for Certification of Military or Naval Service) available and would, “assist members of the uniformed services, including new recruits, who are not citizens of the United States in completing the process to become a citizen of the United States. If, through no fault of the member, a member whose service has been honorable is unable to complete the naturalization process before separation from the uniformed services, the naturalization office shall continue to work with the member until completion of the naturalization process, “(source: see above).

It should be noted that this bill does not impact the Military Accessions Vital to National Interest (MAVNI) program, which the Trump administration referenced ending last week (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world-0/us-politics/trump-immigrant-soldiers-military-army-scheme-deportations-president-considers-scrapping-a7821636.html). Per the Department of Defense, “The Secretary of Defense authorized the military services to recruit certain legal aliens whose skills are considered to be vital to the national interest. Those holding critical skills – physicians, nurses, and certain experts in language with associated cultural backgrounds – would be eligible,” (https://www.defense.gov/news/MAVNI-Fact-Sheet.pdf). In essence this program offers citizenship as an incentive for foreign-born individuals, who have professional skills the military needs, to work with the US military and is a program that primarily has been used to recruit individuals specific to a country the US has a military presence in (https://www.law360.com/articles/941737/sen-urges-mattis-to-honor-citizenship-for-service-contracts; http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/pentagon-considers-ending-program-to-speed-up-citizenship-for-foreign-born-service-members/article/2627677). HR 3102 applies to individuals (the majority of whom came to the US as children) who have voluntarily enlisted into the US military independent of any incentives, regardless of skill levels and generally out of a sense of loyalty, duty and patriotism.

A very interesting and possibly unexpected fact is that, “By the Pentagon’s own analysis, noncitizens have demonstrated commitment to the military beyond their citizen peers. Marine Corps Gen. Peter Pace, the former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, testified before Congress that “[they] are extremely dependable … some eight, nine, or ten percent fewer immigrants wash out of our initial training programs than do those who are currently citizens. Some ten percent or more than those who are currently citizens complete their first initial period of obligated service to the country.” General Pace’s testimony has been echoed in various reports prepared by and for the military, with one report stating “relative to citizen recruits, noncitizen recruits generally have a stronger attachment to serving the United States, which they now consider to be ‘their country,’ and have a better work ethic.” As service time increases, noncitizens’ retention rates surpass those of U.S. citizens by even wider margins, with the dropout rate for noncitizens reportedly nearly half that of U.S. citizens when service reaches four years. Noncitizen soldiers have also served with great distinction, with immigrant service members accounting for 20 percent of all individuals who have been awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. Just like their citizen brothers and sisters, noncitizens have given their lives to protect and serve the United States.” (http://www.courthousenews.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/DISCHARGED-THEN-DISCARDED-fixed.pdf).

These facts speak for the issue and it is hard to close on a powerful note, but the words of former CA Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher eloquently speak to the issue, “”If you are willing to give your life for your country, your country should be willing to give you citizenship” (http://www.deportedvets.org/).

California is actually doing quite a bit to help Californians who have served and are not US citizens become naturalized and an interesting article on this is: https://www.courthousenews.com/san-diego-leaders-lobby-bring-back-deported-veterans/. A non-profit working to help deported Veterans is: http://www.deportedvets.org/ and the ACLU report referenced earlier is a resource rich in history, information and data: http://www.courthousenews.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/DISCHARGED-THEN-DISCARDED-fixed.pdf. If you don’t have an opinion on this issue and thus this bill, I encourage you to gain more knowledge.