LOS ANGELES: As the US military ramps up recruitment efforts in high schools, a coalition of Latino groups is launching a national campaign to ensure kids and parents know their rights.
"In the Vietnam era, the Pentagon targeted Chicanos, Puerto Ricans, and other minority and poor youth with a discriminatory draft," said Los Angeles campaign organizer Rosalio Munoz. "Today our schools have been drafted as the database for turning our youth into cannon fodder again."
Called the "National Opt-Out Campaign," the effort seeks to teach kids and parents how the military gains contact information on students, and how parents and students can limit that access.
Currently, schools are required to give families the right to opt out of having personal information shared with recruiters. But many are unaware that those who take the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) test, which is currently given in 14,000 US schools, may have personal information given to the military regardless.
"Our point is to try to tell people that opt-out ... doesn't protect your child from military recruiters," explained San Diego organizer Jorge Mariscal. He added that, among low-income groups, Latinos are most at risk because "that group is going to be the largest demographic of military-aged people for the next generation at least," and "the Pentagon is spending millions of dollars on Spanish-language materials."
The effort is national but organized locally by a variety of groups, including the Latino Caucus of the National Net-work Opposing Militarization of Youth, the Guerrero Azteca Project for Peace, and the Project on Youth & Non-military Opportunities.
Tactics include using student activists, door-to-door canvassing in Latino neighborhoods, leafleting, and reaching out to media. Kickoff press conferences were held in San Diego, Chicago, San Francisco, and LA.