The Pentagon Has Turned Its Back On Foreign-Born Soldiers & They're Demanding Answers

by Morgan Brinlee
Pool/Getty Images News/Getty Images

The Pentagon has been slapped with a lawsuit for an immigration-related issue after it reneged on its promise to put immigrant recruits on the fast track to naturalization in exchange for their service. A group of foreign-born soldiers are suing the Pentagon and the Department of Homeland Security after their applications were stalled following the Pentagon's decision to rethink its Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest (MAVNI) recruitment program. Neither the Pentagon nor DHS officials commented on the article to McClatchy.

Beginning in 2008, the Department of Defense used the MAVNI recruitment program to recruit foreign-born individuals who posses specialized or critical skills identified as vital to the success of operations. In exchange for their service, recruits were promised expedited citizenship if they already possessed a green card or eligibility for citizenship if they did not.

A lawsuit brought forth by a group of foreign-born recruits, however, alleges that while "each plaintiff-soldier has kept his/her end of the bargain" by enlisting, completing training drills, and agreeing to carry out deployment orders, the U.S. government has not, according to a report from the McClatchy Washington Bureau. Under their agreement with the U.S. Army, these recruits should have been provided citizenship after basic training. Yet the Pentagon has now reportedly asked the DHS not to process the citizenship applications of MAVNI recruits while it mulls over the idea of amending the requirements for naturalization under the MAVNI program or even potentially canceling the enlistment contracts for some recruits altogether.

In June, it was reported the Pentagon was mulling a proposal to cancel enlistment contracts for roughly 1,000 foreign-born recruits who did not have legal immigration status, leaving them open to the risk of deportation. According to McClatchy, the lawsuit recently filed against the Pentagon alleges the 10 soldiers involved are "suffering irreparable harm" as a result of the uncertainty regarding their legal status.

In a memo obtained earlier this summer by both NPR and The Washington Post, Pentagon officials reportedly described the MAVNI recruitment program as a potential security risk. Along with mulling the cancellation of 1,000 enlistment contracts, the Pentagon was also reportedly considering "enhanced screening" for some 4,100 additional troops, the majority of which are naturalized citizens, the Post reported.

An immigration attorney and retired Army officer who helped implement MAVNI has derided the Pentagon's latest move as "outrageous."

"Are they making up new rules there at DoD?" Margaret Stock asked McClatchy. "I've never heard of decertifying someone who is eligible through the Reserves, it is outrageous. They've naturalized thousands of reservists and all of a sudden DoD noticed it and they’re going to revoke some of them?"

According to reports, this is only one of several lawsuits recently filed against the Pentagon by MAVNI recruits who've found their citizenship applications stalled under the Trump administration.