The U.S. Army is allegedly discharging some immigrant reservists and recruits who enlisted through the special recruitment program that offered a path to citizenship, a report from the Associated Press revealed.
Citing immigration lawyers privy to the details, the report claimed that at least 40 immigrant recruits have been discharged or whose status has been put at risk recently.
According to those abruptly dismissed, they were not immediately provided with details on why they were being discharged. Some who sought explanations were reportedly told that they were labeled as security risks simply because they have relatives abroad or because the Defense Department had not completed background checks on them.
Before enlisting in any U.S. military branch, potential recruits are required to acquire legal status in the country. In 2016, over 5,000 immigrants were recruited into the immigrant recruitment program, with an estimated 10,000 recruits currently serving. While many end up in the Army, there are also those who choose other military branches.
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Service members just require honorable service designations to acquire U.S. citizenship, which usually becomes available shortly during boot camp. Since the recently discharged service members will not be able to continue their basic training, they can no longer be naturalized.
According to Margaret Stock, an immigration attorney and retired Army Reserve lieutenant colonel who helped create the immigrant recruitment program, the discharged recruits have all signed enlistment contracts and taken an Army oath.
While most of them were already attending unit drills, receiving pay and undergoing training, others had been placed in a “delayed entry” program.
The only reason the recruits fail to meet their background check requirements is that the Defense Department had not managed to put them through the necessary screenings and counterintelligence interviews conducted by agencies such as the CIA, FBI and National Intelligence Agency.
“Immigrants have been serving in the Army since 1775,” Stock pointed out. “We wouldn’t have won the revolution without immigrants. And we’re not going to win the global war on terrorism today without immigrants.”
In an interview with the AP, an unnamed Pakistani service member lamented how his abrupt discharge affected him.
“There were so many tears in my eyes that my hands couldn’t move fast enough to wipe them away,” he said. “I was devastated because I love the U.S. and was so honored to be able to serve this great country.”
He now fears being forced to return to Pakistan where he faces potential danger for being a former U.S. Army enlistee.
After enlisting in April 2016, the 22-year-old man anticipated becoming a citizen within months but faced a series of delays. Even his basic training, which was slated in January 2017, was also put off. The man’s military file revealed that the army cited his “foreign ties” — relationships with his family and fiancee in Pakistan — as “a concern.”
Representatives from the Pentagon and the Army have declined to explain the discharges or respond to questions about whether there have been policy changes in any of the military branches, citing the pending litigation filed by some discharged recruits.
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