Last year, the federal government announced that it was backing out of a deal it’s made with immigrant recruits for over a decade: put your body on the line for the American military and we’ll expedite you through the the citizenship process. Now, a new report from the Associated Press says that some of these recruits are already being discharged, and not being given much of a real reason why.
The AP was unable to quantify how many men and women who enlisted through the special recruitment program have been booted from the Army, but immigration attorneys say they know of more than 40 who have been discharged or whose status has become questionable, jeopardizing their futures.
Some of the service members say they were not told why they were being discharged. Others who pressed for answers 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.
This is what one Pakistani-born soldier told the AP about his experience (emphasis mine):
The Pakistani service member who spoke to the AP said he learned in a phone call a few weeks ago that his military career was over.
“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 asked that his name be withheld because he fears he might be forced to return to Pakistan, where he could face danger as a former U.S. Army enlistee.
Portions of the 22-year-old’s military file reviewed by the AP said he was so deeply loyal to the U.S. that his relationships with his family and fiancee in Pakistan would not make him a security threat. Nonetheless, the documents show the Army cited those foreign ties as a concern.
“It’s terrible because I put my life in the line for this country,” an Iranian citizen who was also discharged in recent weeks told the AP. “But I feel like I’m being treated like trash. If I am not eligible to become a U.S. citizen, I am really scared to return to my country.”
It’s extremely fucked up to begin with that the government was coaxing immigrants into the military by dangling a fast track through the extremely expensive and arduous naturalization process in front of them. As with the transgender military ban, however, discharging immigrant soldiers for no reason—from one of the only institutions remaining which Americans have any sort of confidence in, depressingly—is just another way for the Trump administration to alienate groups they view as undesirable from the general public.
The Pentagon told the AP that it was unable to comment on the report because of pending litigation. It was likely referring to lawsuits such as the one from Lucas Calixto, a Brazilian-born, Massachusetts-residing Army reservist who sued the Department of the Army last week.
According to the lawsuit, Calixto signed an eight-year enlistment contract in February 2016. In March 2017, the lawsuit says, he submitted an application for naturalization. On June 13, however, he says he was abruptly discharged, with no reason given.
“It was my dream to serve in the military,” Calixto told the AP. “Since this country has been so good to me, I thought it was the least I could do to give back to my adopted country and serve in the United States military.
“Now the great feeling I had when I enlisted is going down the drain,” Calixto added. “I don’t understand why this is happening.”
You can read Calixto’s complaint below.