Staff Sgt. Joseph Palacios says he does not like approaching teens at the Serramonte Center with his usual question: “Have you ever thought about joining the Army?”
“Nobody wants to be a recruiter, especially in this area,” Palacios said as he walked around the mall. “There is a lot of negativity here.”
Five years after the invasion of Iraq, recruiters around the Bay Area are having a tough time attracting new soldiers, Sgt. Brian Knott said. But in Daly City, the U.S. Army office has recruited 25 locals since October at what is considered the top recruiting station in Northern California. Recruiters have met a 98 percent goal of signing new soldiers since that time, said Knott, in part because the large immigrant population in northern Peninsula cities makes recruiting easier than other parts of the Bay Area.
In Daly City, where Filipinos make up almost one-third of its population — the largest concentration in the U.S. — immigrants are attractive targets for recruiters because they are often “underemployed,” Knott said.
“Immigrant recruits are often legal residents with degrees who are underemployed — we offer them to be an accountant when they are washing dishes in McDonald’s,” he said.
Tomas Jimenez, an assistant professor of sociology at UC San Diego conducting research on immigrants in the military, said the benefits from the Army also make going to the military attractive. In the Daly City recruiting office, the main wall is occupied by a massive poster touting $50,000 in benefits.
Palacios, who joined the U.S. Army immediately after emigrating from the Philippines in 1992, said the majority of his recruits are Filipino immigrants. Of the 62 locals recruited to the Army last yearfrom north Peninsula cities, two-thirds were Asians, while Hispanics made up 17 percent, according to data compiled by the National Priorities Project, a research group that studies military trends. Most of the recruits, according to the data, came from Daly City. In San Mateo County, 39 percent of recruits in 2007 were Asian, while nationally, they made up only 3 percent.
The military is interested in immigrants because they have been known to make great recruits, Jimenez said. He also said immigrants want to serve a foreign country to gain respect and assimilate into the new society.
For Myke Raymundo, a 20-year-old immigrant from the Philippines who was recruited in Daly City, entering the military is a great way to start a life in the United States.
“It’s a win-win situation — it’s a chance for me to do all the things I want at the same time — work, study and get experience,” Raymundo said.