Immigrants in the military

Since Sept. 11, 2001, over 109,250 members of the Armed Forces have attained their citizenship by serving in the military. Today, about 5,000 legal permanent resident aliens (green card holders) enlist each year, eligible for citizenship after a year in the military.   The recent uproar has been about enrollees in a special program started in 2008 to recruit medical and language specialists.

As reported by National Immigrant Forum: “Earlier this summer the U.S. Army forcibly discharged over one hundred immigrant enlistees. The Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest program (MAVNI) promised highly-skilled immigrants an expedient path to citizenship in exchange for their service in the army. As of this week, over 30 recruits have been reinstated into the program, signaling an improving situation. However, more information recently came to light about why immigrant recruits were targeted for removal – recruits were reportedly red-flagged as a security risk for a variety of mundane activities, such as placing calls to their parents abroad and playing video games with noncitizens.”

Background:

Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest (MAVNI) began in 2008 as a pilot program. 10,000 troops have signed up to serve through MAVNI since 2008. New entrants have been suspended since 2016, leaving about 1,000 persons in still under review.

The program is restricted to healthcare professionals or experts in certain key languages with associated cultural backgrounds. Around 30% of MAVNI recruits were assigned to Special Operations units due to their language abilities, (go here).

MAVNI program applicants must be in a legal immigration status, with a valid temporary visa. The applicant must have been in valid status for at least two years prior to the enlistment date.

For a Defense Dept. fact sheet go here. It says that non-citizens have served in the military since the Revolutionary War. The Lodge Act of 1950 permitted non-citizen Eastern Europeans to enlist between 1950 and 1959. The United States officially began recruiting Filipino nationals into the Navy in the late 1940s.

 

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