Hundreds of immigrants hoping to fast-track their path to American citizenship by joining the Army have reportedly had their enlistment contracts voided by the Pentagon over the past several weeks, putting some of them at risk for deportation in what one observer has called a “dumpster fire ruining people’s lives.”
The Pentagon has long recruited foreign-born enlistees whose skills make them valuable assets for the military. However, as the Washington Post points out in a recent exposé on the abrupt contract cancellations, the enlistment process for these non-citizen recruits is seen by some military officials as particularly onerous and is being abandoned in favor of easier targets. The paper says some recruits could now be deported because they will have lost their legal immigration status.
Currently, participants in the “Military Accessions Vital to National Interest” initiative are removed from the program if they haven’t finished their basic training within 730 days. But enrollees are ineligible to go through basic training without having first completed extensive background checks—a bureaucratic process that can take longer than the requisite time frame.
“It’s a dumpster fire ruining people’s lives,” Margaret Stock, a former Army officer who helped create the immigrant recruitment program, explained to the Post. “The magnitude of incompetence is beyond belief. We have a war going on.”
Oddly enough, Stock’s sentiment seemingly echoes that of President Trump, who recently tweeted support for foreign-born military recruits.
Of course, Trump’s lip service to the men and women who have chosen to join the armed services comes as his administration actively works to remove transgender soldiers from the military.
The Pentagon and Army Recruiting Command did not respond to the Post’s request for comment.
The prospect of canceling the enlistment contracts of non-citizens—many of whom are participants in the DACA program—has been in the works for a while. In July, NPR obtained a memo outlining plans to cancel contracts with pending foreign-born recruits, in which “Pentagon officials cited the possibility that recruits could have connections to foreign intelligence services or become insider threats.”
What’s more, NPR reported:
Under the proposal outlined in the memo, immigrants already serving in the military would be flagged for enhanced security screenings. Others [...] who still haven’t attended basic training would be separated from the military and their enlistment contracts canceled. About 1,000 of those immigrants would be at risk of deportation because their visas have expired.
This week, Democratic Senators Dick Durbin and Kamala Harris unveiled plans to protect the non-citizen recruits by introducing legislation that would allow them to retain their military enrollment status regardless of how long their background checks take.