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Immigration Law

Army Risks 'Mission Failure' by Rejecting Immigrants, Naturalized Citizens

Alex Horton, Washington Post, Oct. 18, 2017 - "The U.S. Army has stopped enlisting some immigrants who are legal permanent residents while mandating lengthy delays for others, part of a controversial effort across the military to tighten security in the ranks by subjecting foreign-born recruits to tougher background checks.

Implemented late last week, the new policy halts indefinitely all enlistments involving green-card holders seeking to join the Army Reserve, which is a part-time military service commitment. Green-card holders seeking to become full-time soldiers remain eligible to enlist in the active-duty Army, but they are no longer allowed to start basic training before their background checks are complete — a process that could take a year or more.

Critics deride the moves as potentially unlawful, and that they’ll turn away prospective troops who possess language and medical skills desperately needed throughout the armed forces. The piecemeal, secretive manner in which these new rules have been adopted has caused widespread confusion for recruits and recruiters alike, opponents say, and sends a terrible message.

“It looks like we’re now afraid of foreigners in the military. And that means mission failure,” said Margaret Stock, a retired Army officer who created an immigrant recruitment program for the military. “If you’re going to be deployed in more than 100 countries to fight a global war, you can’t be afraid of foreigners.”

Other new regulations also extend the waiting period for military green-card holders to become naturalized U.S. citizens. Previously, that could occur just weeks into basic training. Now active-duty recruits must wait 180 days. 

Turning away immigrants, who make up more than 13 percent of the U.S. population, will dry up a reliable recruiting pool at a time the Army, pressed to reach quotas, is enlisting some men and women with weak qualifications, Stock said.

Moreover, because U.S. law says permanent residents are permitted to enlist, the new policy may violate treaties with the independent island nations of Micronesia, the Marshall Islands and Palau. Those citizens have a legal right to enlist, said Stock, who is an immigration attorney."