Army No Longer Giving Immigrants the Boot

| August 10, 2018


I had no idea they were doing this in the first place. The U.S. Army has stopped discharging immigrant recruits who enlisted seeking a path to citizenship, at least temporarily.  A memo shared with The Associated Press on Wednesday and dated July 20 spells out orders to high-ranking Army officials to stop processing discharges of men and women who enlisted in the special immigrant program, effective immediately. It was not clear how many recruits were impacted by the action.

“Effective immediately, you will suspend processing of all involuntary separation actions,” read the memo signed by Acting Assistant Secretary of the Army for Manpower and Reserve Affairs Marshall Williams.


The disclosure comes one month after the AP reported that dozens of immigrant enlistees were being discharged or had their contracts cancelled. Some said they were given no reason for their discharge. Others said the Army informed them they’d been labeled as security risks because they have relatives abroad or because the Defense Department had not completed background checks on them.

I can understand the security concerns, I also think this program does offer a way to citizenship that is earned.  Not sure why the Army had not completed background checks on these people before they were put on Active Duty.

Category: Military issues, Politics

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  1. Sapper3307 says:

    It worked for my dad the Canadian in 1953, but he didn’t have any MS13 in his family.

  2. AnotherPat says:

    The “special immigrant program” is known as the
    Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest (MAVNI):

    MAVNI was a recruitment program by the DoD through which legal non-immigrants (not citizens or legal permanent residents of USA) with certain critical skills are recruited into the military services of US. Certain health care professionals and experts in certain languages meet eligibility requirements for recruitment through this program. It was spearheaded by immigration attorney Margaret Stock, a former U.S. Army Reserve and West Point professor.

    The Marine Corps and the Coast Guard opted out in participating in the program.

    The Air Force participated until 2016:

    The Navy participated as well:

      • OWB says:

        Is it too much to expect the security check process to catch folks who falsify their records?

        • 2/17 Air Cav says:

          OWB. I guess that the records (if there are any) of some countries can’t be trusted, especially where bribery is the accepted method of doing business.

      • AnotherPat says:

        MAVNI, which started under President George W. Bush was designed to help the military attract health care professionals or personnel with specific language skills.

        An estimated 10,400 troops signed up to serve through that program, but none were Marines. The Marine Corps opted not to participate in the program, Kronenberg said.

        “The Marine Corps does not have any medical occupational field and we do not have the type of shortfalls in language proficiencies that would necessitate participation in MAVNI,” he said.

        The Marine Corps isn’t the only service to have opted out of the program.

        The Coast Guard continues to admit immigrants who read, write and speak English fluently; are admitted to the U.S. as lawful permanent residents; and have no prior military service.

        The service has no plans to review that policy, he said.

        The Navy didn’t respond to questions about its program and whether any sailors are facing discharge before press time.

        The Air Force doesn’t currently participate in MAVNI, but did so until 2016.

  3. 7711C20 says:

    In my BCT platoon in 75 I had three immigrants working their way to citizenship. They were from Haiti, Taiwan and Poland. The only difference from today they were all legal immigrants.

  4. SFC (R) Blizz says:

    This whole thing is kinda misleading. They have not shipped to basic training yet, they are DEPs (delayed entry program). Have no doubt this had less to do about them then it did ab out the politics surrounding it. Your not really in the Army as a DEP, you have a reservation for your job and training in the Army.

  5. David says:

    Had a Korean guy named Park in the upper bunk in 1977 BCT. 35 years old and he struggled, but he made it.

  6. USAFRetired says:

    The security clearance backlog at OPM contributed. Recently DOD became OPR for clearances.

  7. FatCircles0311 says:

    I don’t think any non us citizen should be serving in our military period. There are so few spots avaible already.

    • E4 Mafia For Life. says:

      You have a valid point.
      However, specific immigrants are needed to fill slots where foreign language is critical.
      It takes years to train someone to speak Farsi, Arabic, Pashtu, Chinese, etc. Especially with multiple dialects and adequate pronunciation. There’s not much getting around that.
      I think it’s a good path to earn citizenship if they are not a security risk whether they are prone to be sleepers or their home countries have shitty/no records.
      Our service member population fluctuates obviously. I say carve out a very small percentage for them. Steer them towards MOS’s with difficult retention rates.

    • AngryB says:

      “So few spots available already”….have you not heard about the extreme challenges most services are having in recruiting kids to fill those spots?

      Interest in serving is low and few young people (3 out of 10) even qualify to serve. Research indicates that while US military service members are very respected by American youth, very few will consider military service as an option for themselves. Especially when unemployment is as low as it is currently and McDonalds offers part-timers college tuition assistance benefits and a low likelihood of job-related danger.

  8. Perry Gaskill says:

    This seems like a non-story story. First of all, it’s a suspension of policy action and not a program cancellation. Secondly, those recruits affected were in the country legally even if temporarily on a student visa. If bounced from the Army, it likely means the recruit returns to status quo ante.

    The way security clearances worked back in the Jurassic Era during RVN, is that it normally took about six months to get cleared for TS material. If somebody failed a background check, they were either kept in the Army in an MOS that didn’t require a TS clearance, or shown the door depending on what the background check revealed.

    The AP also seems to spend a lot of time speculating to cover for the fact that they didn’t have enough information to build a more solid story.

  9. AW1Ed says:

    OPM is seriously behind in background investigations, and I’d imagine the legal non-immigrants would be near the bottom of the pecking order. My XX clearance is supposed to be investigated every five years- I just had the interview at the seven year mark, a two year gap.

    That being said, I’m perfectly happy with anyone who can pass the check and wants to serve.