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Hullabaloo


Friday, July 06, 2018

 

Almost as if they're not welcome

by Tom Sullivan


Photo: U.S. State Department

Associated Press reported yesterday that the Army is quietly discharging immigrant-enlistees:

The AP was unable to quantify how many men and women who enlisted through the special recruitment program have been booted from the Army, but immigration attorneys say they know of more than 40 who have been discharged or whose status has become questionable, jeopardizing their futures.

“It was my dream to serve in the military,” said reservist Lucas Calixto, a Brazilian immigrant who filed a lawsuit against the Army last week. “Since this country has been so good to me, I thought it was the least I could do to give back to my adopted country and serve in the United States military.”
Some enlistees, AP reports, received no explanation for their abrupt discharge. Others heard the Army considered them security risks. They had enlisted under a George W. Bush-era initiative offering "expedited naturalization" to immigrant soldiers. In the wake of the September 11 attacks, the Pentagon needed recruits with foreign language or advanced medical skills it lacked. The language deficit allowed thousands of pages of intercepts in Arabic to go untranslated before the attacks.

In 2009, the effort became the Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest program, known as MAVNI. A 2016 Department of Justice brief alleged some MAVNI recruits in their applications cited fake university degrees, barred new enlistments, and added increased security checks. The Trump administration began examining cancelling the program last summer.

AP adds:
It came under fire from conservatives when President Barack Obama added DACA recipients — young immigrants who were brought to the U.S. illegally — to the list of eligible enlistees. In response, the military layered on additional security clearances for recruits to pass before heading to boot camp.

The Trump Administration added even more hurdles, creating a backlog within the Defense Department. Last fall, hundreds of recruits still in the enlistment process had their contracts canceled. A few months later, the military suspended MAVNI.
Col. Margaret Stock, the now-retired officer who suggested the program, spoke with National Public Radio after the Trump administration suspended the program in October:
BLOCK: What was your reaction when you learned that the Pentagon was shutting off this fast track towards citizenship in the military?

STOCK: I was appalled by this because it's obvious the military is going to lose a valuable source of recruits. The foreign-born right now are 13.5 percent of the population. And the percentage of the population that's foreign-born is growing. So if you're going to say that the military can't recruit 13.5 percent of the population, you're restricting military recruiting only to citizens. You're going to end up with much less quality in terms of language - foreign language skills, cultural skills.
Stock told AP, “Immigrants have been serving in the Army since 1775. We wouldn’t have won the revolution without immigrants. And we’re not going to win the global war on terrorism today without immigrants.” She told NPR last July, "If you were a bad guy who wanted to infiltrate the Army, you wouldn't risk the many levels of vetting required in this program."

The Military Times reported last October that since 2009, 10,000 troops had entered the ranks through MAVNI. One year ago, the Independent reported at least 1,000 trainee-soldiers with expired visas might risk deportation from cancelling MAVNI. Reporting from AP yesterday leaves that an open question.

In a statement, the Department of Defense states, “All service members (i.e. contracted recruits, active duty, Guard and Reserve) and those with an honorable discharge are protected from deportation.” The catch, immigration attorneys told AP, is these discharges are "uncharacterized," neither honorable nor dishonorable.

In its xenophobic zeal, the Trump administration is making us safer by excluding from the army (and citizenship) immigrant recruits with foreign-language skills the Pentagon only realized it needed after September 11.

The sitting president is "like a smart person" only because he's a person.

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