California voters passed measures F and J last November prohibiting military recruiters from initiating contact with minors. Now the Obama administration is demanding that the law be overturned. A court hearing was scheduled for June 9 in Oakland, California. The measures, which passed by a large margin, allow recruitment to occur if the minor initiates contact. Federal government lawyers claim “irreparable harm” if the laws stand.
The cities of Eureka and Arcata cite international treaties that prohibit recruitment of children under 17. If the Cities prevail over the Obama administration in court, the legislation could likely be brought before voters in communities across the nation. Enforcement of the laws is on hold pending the court action.
The author of the legislation, Dave Meserve, described the ordinances as protecting youth from slick and persistent professional salesmen who identify the children as “prospects,” but never reveal that 18% of Iraq war veterans return with traumatic brain injuries and 20% with diagnosed post-traumatic stress disorder.
“The federal government sets no minimum age limit below which recruiters may not contact kids to promote military enlistment,” writes Meserve. An official Recruiter Handbook has this advice: “You will find that establishing trust and credibility with students, even seventh and eighth graders, has a strong impact on your high school and post-secondary school recruiting efforts.”
While minors can’t enlist without parental consent they can be signed up in the Delayed Entry Program, where they commit to enlistment after they turn eighteen. Those who have second thoughts are routinely misinformed about their right to rescind the commitment, in many instances the highly pressured recruiters resort to false threats of prosecution.Φ
Without fanfare, a federal judge in Oakland on June 18 threw out voter-approved laws in two Northern California cities barring military recruiters from contacting minors.
U.S. District Judge Saundra Brown Armstrong ruled that laws passed in the Humboldt County cities of Arcata and Eureka in November were unconstitutional and invalid.
The finding was not unexpected by proponents of the laws, which passed with 73 percent of the vote in Arcata and 57 percent in Eureka. The federal government quickly sued to overturn the laws, which have been stayed ever since.