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These Recruits Were Promised Citizenship in Exchange for Military Service...Has the US Forgotten Them?

March 16, 2021 (1 min read)

Richard Sisk,, Mar. 13, 2021

"For a small group of young immigrants who were pitched a dream of gaining U.S. citizenship through military service, even a call home can jeopardize their status and flag them to the FBI. That's life for more than 100 would-be Americans who enlisted under the Military Accessions Vital to National Interest program. Started as a way to woo talented youths from other countries who could fill key military skill gaps, it has now become a drawn-out limbo fraught with security Catch-22s for those waiting months or years for background screenings to clear. ... In May 2020, six currently serving MAVNI soldiers filed suit in federal district court in Washington, D.C., charging that the Defense Department broke the promise of citizenship for service dating back to the American Revolution by imposing the 2017 restrictions over fears of espionage. The soldiers in the Samma v. Department of Defense lawsuit, filed on their behalf by the American Civil Liberties Union, won in district court in February. The Justice Department is now considering whether to appeal, according to ACLU lawyer Scarlet Kim. ... Immigration lawyer Margaret Stock, a retired Army lieutenant colonel who drew up the original proposal to create the MAVNI program in 2008, said she knows of no instance of a MAVNI recruit being deported as a security risk. Stock said the enhanced background checks grew out of the DoD "beating the drum that all of these [MAVNI] people were dangerous. They made them fail the background checks based on foreign ties. It was considered derogatory to have foreign parents; everybody was considered to be a security risk," she said. "It was like, 'OK, you're an immigrant. Of course, your parents are foreigners. Therefore, you failed the background, [but] we'll give you a chance to rebut the accusation you have foreign parents.' It's a giant mess, and it's still going on." "