The United States Army has canceled the enlistment contracts of hundreds of foreign-born recruits who joined through the Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest program (MAVNI), according to a report published Friday by the Washington Post.
MAVNI launched in 2008 as the brainchild of Margaret Stock, a retired Army lieutenant colonel and MacArthur Genius Fellowship winner. Stock and other Pentagon officials had assessed the weaknesses in military readiness post-9/11 and determined that the Army needed more highly skilled language experts. In exchange for military service, the enlistees would have their citizenship process expedited.
The program started small, with a cap of 1,000 recruits, but early successes pushed up targeted recruitment numbers to 5,200 in 2016. Last year, the Army’s target was 62,500 overall new soldiers, which means roughly 8 percent of new enlistees would be immigrants seeking citizenship. Critics of the program, including Army veteran and Oklahoma Congressman Steve Russell, looked at that number and said the program had outgrown its stated purpose and had turned the Army into an immigration processing center.
The Pentagon announced plans to curtail the MAVNI program last September, citing the need for additional security screenings. The Army stopped taking new recruits, but the approximately 1,000 enlistees who had signed their contracts and not yet shipped out were left in limbo. MAVNI requires anyone who signs up to terminate their current immigration status — so the suspension of the program left many without legal status and open for deportation proceedings.
VICE News went to South Bend, Indiana, to talk to two recruits from China as they prepared for the potential cancellation of their contracts.
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