“Each plaintiff-soldier has kept his/her end of the bargain,” their lawsuit states. The immigrant recruits did their part by enlisting, training in drills with their unit, and subjecting themselves to deployment. The U.S. Army certified their service, and the military is supposed to provide citizenship as soon as they complete basic training or attend drills.
But at the Pentagon’s request, the Homeland Security Department is not processing their applications, as required.
Pentagon and Homeland Security officials now say they are considering going back and changing who is eligible to receive a certification of military service, possibly even revoking the certifications for those soldiers not in active-duty service.
Although the soldiers named in this suit received their certifications, they “could be considered signed in error and may be decertified,” said Director of Military Accession Policy at the Pentagon, citing the program’s guidance.
The delay has put some soldiers at risk of deportation, the lawsuit states. These soldiers are “suffering irreparable harm” and financial strain as they face uncertainty about their status, unable to get a job, a drivers license, or a passport to visit sick family members, their attorneys say.
The 10 reservists who brought the suit were recruited through the Pentagon’s Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest program, known as MAVNI, which gives expedited citizenship to legal immigrants who enlist with critical language skills or medical training.
Nearly 10,000 immigrants are in the MAVNI program, most of them serving in the Army. The popular program was allowed to accept 5,000 recruits in 2016, but was frozen last fall after security concerns about the vetting of recruits.
Now the Pentagon is considering scrapping it altogether, according to an internal memo included in the suit. This would leave roughly 1,000 non-citizen recruits at risk of deportation despite being enlisted in the U.S. military.
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