U.S., Military—Last fall changes were announced to the program that allowed Lawful Permanent Residents (LPRs) to join the military with the promised path to citizenship.
The program, Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest (MAVNI) was created with the aim to attract medical specialists and fluent speakers of forty-four sought-after languages to join the military.
The changes were to security screenings and certifications of honorable service for the purpose of expedited naturalization, the Department of Defense announced the changes in October of 2017.
For currently serving service members, to include those in the Delayed Training Program, they must complete all security and suitability screening requirements prior to a certification of honorable service. Those who may have received a certification of honorable service prior to the completion of all security and suitability screening requirements will have that certification recalled and decertified until, at a minimum, screening requirements are complete.
In April of 2018 Military.com reported, “Of the estimated 10,400 troops who have signed up to serve through MAVNI since 2008, more than 1,000 now face uncertain futures.” The program according to the article is essentially suspended amid “political battles over immigration policy.”
One service member they spoke to, Army Spc. Charles Choi, originally from South Korea, who has a bachelor’s degree and a master’s in statistics from Cornell University, told Military.com, “yes, I’m in limbo,” adding, “I’m still waiting for the security clearance to be completed.” Choi has been waiting two years to start basic training. His visa expires next year.
On Thursday the AP reported that the U.S. Army is quietly discharging immigrant reservists and recruits.
It’s unclear how many of those immigrants that enlisted through MAVNI, have been already discharged though immigration attorneys that spoke with the AP said they know of more than forty who have either been “discharged or whose status has become questionable.”
One service member, a Brazilian immigrate who came to the United States at twelve, Lucas Calixto has filed a lawsuit against the Army, last week in Washington D.C. Calixto says that the army gave no reason for his discharge beyond, “personnel security.” He also feels the Army allowed him no defense nor did they afford him the ability to appeal their decision.
Margaret Stock, an Alaskan-based immigration attorney and a retired Army Reserve lieutenant colonel who helped create MAVNI, told the AP she has been “inundated over the past several days by recruits who have been abruptly discharged.”
She explained to the AP all of those that have been discharged signed enlistment contracts and have taken an Army oath. Many of them, according to Stock, were reservists who had been attending “unit drills, receiving pay and undergoing training. While some had been in a “delayed entry” program.
The service members that Stock spoke to, say they were told, that the Defense Department “had not managed to put them through extensive background checks, which include CIA, FBI, and National Intelligence Agency screenings and counterintelligence interviews.” Which means by default, they do not meet the background check requirement.
Congressman Andy Harris (R-Maryland) told the AP, “Our military must prioritize enlisting American citizens, and restore the MAVNI program to its specialized, limited scope.”
The Pentagon and the Army declined to comment telling the AP “due to pending litigation they were unable to explain the discharges or respond to questions about whether there have been policy changes in any of the military branches.”
According to the Department of Defense MAVNI fact sheet, “Since Sept. 11, 2001, over 109,250 members of the Armed Forces have attained their citizenship by serving this nation.”