Yesterday, the Associated Press ran a piece that has tied knickers, left and right, in a tight little knot.
Some immigrant U.S. Army reservists and recruits who enlisted in the military with a promised path to citizenship are being abruptly discharged, the Associated Press has learned.
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.
It goes on with a litany of hurt feelings expressed by young men who thought they would be enlisting in the Armed Forces as a way of expediting citizenship and now they’ve found they will not be allowed to join the US military. And it was naturally used by NeverTrump and Democrats and open borders people of all political persuasions as an indictment of President Trump’s immigration policies.
I have a strong bias on this story. I don’t think that expedited citizenship should be offered as a recruiting tool for military services. I think it cheapens both the value of citizenship and the profession of arms. I am totally opposed to any recruitment program that allows anyone but US citizens and resident aliens to enlist. In the case of aliens belonging to potential adversaries, like Iran, for instance, they would have little to no protection under the Geneva Conventions if they were captured. They would clearly be citizens of that country captured while bearing arms against it and would have no reason to complain about whatever bad thing happened to them.
Despite setting the stage for spinning what happened as a vendetta against immigrants who had enlisted to become citizens, the story has some clues as to the deeper story.
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.
To become citizens, the service members need an honorable service designation, which can come after even just a few days at boot camp. But the recently discharged service members have had their basic training delayed, so they can’t be naturalized.
All had signed enlistment contracts and taken an Army oath, [retired Army LTC Margaret Stock, the genius who created this problem] said. Many were reservists who had been attending unit drills, receiving pay and undergoing training, while others had been in a “delayed entry” program, she said.
Stock said the service members she’s heard from had been told the Defense Department had not managed to put them through extensive background checks, which include CIA, FBI and National Intelligence Agency screenings and counterintelligence interviews. Therefore, by default, they do not meet the background check requirement.
In hopes of undoing the discharge, he filed a lawsuit in Washington, D.C., last week alleging the Defense Department hadn’t given him a chance to defend himself or appeal. He said he was given no specific grounds other than “personnel security.”
Then there is this bit of WTF: “In the suit, Calixto said he learned he was being kicked out soon after he was promoted to private second class.” There is actually no such thing as a private second class, much less the ability to be promoted to one.
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.
The man had enlisted in April 2016 anticipating he’d be a citizen within months, but faced a series of delays. He had been slated to ship out to basic training in January 2017, but that also was delayed.
There are two unifying points here. First, none of the people involved have actually gone to basic training–it is not unusual for enlistees in the Reserve and Guard to go to unit drills while awaiting their basic training date but this is voluntary and there is no pay. Second, all were denied admission to basic training because of security clearance issues.
As a rule, non-citizens cannot be granted a security clearance. This is pretty critical because if you are around tactical radios you have to have a clearance because of your access to cryptographic keys. The guidelines for granting non-citizens clearance is in Executive Order 12968:
Where there are compelling reasons in furtherance of an agency mission, immigrant alien and foreign national employees who possess a special expertise may, in the discretion of the agency, be granted limited access to classified information only for specific programs, projects, contracts, licenses, certificates, or grants for which there is a need for access. Such individuals shall not be eligible for access to any greater level of classified information than the United States Govern-ment has determined may be releasable to the country of which the subject is currently a citizen, and such limited access may be approved only if the prior 10 years of the subject’s life can be appropriately investigated. If there are any doubts concerning granting access, additional lawful investigative procedures shall be fully pursued.
How did we get here?
In 2008, the Bush administration created a program called Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest (MAVNI). To get in, you had to be a legal resident of the US and have specialized skills needed by the Armed Forces. The program expired in 2010 but was restarted in 2012 with a two-year sunset provision. In September 2014, the Obama Defense Department extended it for two more years but they also opened it to DREAMers. So now we had illegal aliens entering the US military. You’ll note the person quoted here is the same person quoted in the AP article:
The decision to pair MAVNI with DACA sounded the death knell for the program, Stock said, because MAVNI was never intended as way to address the political hot potato of citizenship for undocumented long-term residents.
“They made a colossal error, frankly,” she said. “Instead of trying to recruit the DACAs separately, they tried to shove the DACAs into the MAVNI program. And that wrecked both programs.”
That’s because MAVNI sought candidates with hard-to-fill specialties, such as licensed medical professionals, or highly sought language skills.
DACA candidates rarely meet those qualifications, either because they are undocumented or because they have been in the U.S. so long.
“There are DACAs that speak the strategic languages, but there aren’t thousands of them,” Stock said.”
Bingo. Not only were they de jure illegal enlistments, they had no skills needed by the military AND they were probably going to have a hard time getting a security clearance which means they would be ineligible to enlist.
By September 2016 the program was being wound down because the Pentagon was discovering numerous “security risks” had been enlisted. In July 2017, the program died. This left a number of people who had enlisted under MAVNI in a sort of limbo.
More: There was a complete freeze in new recruiting for the MANVI program after enhanced security checks became a requirement in the fall of 2016 (under the Obama administration)https://t.co/bkqquwFP51
— (((AG))) (@AG_Conservative) July 6, 2018
Bottom line. They aren’t being discharged because they were never enlisted in the first place and they are being refused active duty because they can’t pass a background check. This is not anti-immigrant. This is not injustice. This is taking basic steps to ensure that the people who have enlisted are not a danger to their comrades and units or assets of a foreign power. We should be cheering over this, not wearing frowny faces.