NPR Reporter Rips Apart AP’s Story On Immigrants In The Military

Neetu Chandak | Contributor

National Public Radio reporter Tim Mak took apart the Associated Press’s coverage of discharged immigrant military recruits in multiple tweets Friday.

The AP’s article, “AP NewsBreak: US Army quietly discharging immigrant recruits,” framed the military as adopting policy changes that hurt immigrants, according to Mak.

However, Mak criticized the AP for only providing “hints and anecdotes” instead of evidence that the Trump administration made such changes. (RELATED: Associated Press Botched Story On GOP Immigration Bill)

“If I was the editor on this story I would have asked for more meat on the bones,” tweeted Mak. “Show me evidence of a change in policy.”

While the AP framed immigrants as being unfairly and abruptly targeted by the military, Mak said discharges happen frequently for a variety of reasons.

“I bet I could find 40 recruits discharged bf basic [sic] for being too fat,” he said.

“Perhaps these immigrant recruits could not pass a background check (by the way, there are jobs in the military that don’t require clearance),” Mak said in another tweet.

The AP admitted the immigrant military recruits neither attended basic training nor went through extensive background checks. Several were also considered “as security risks because they have relatives abroad or because the Defense Department had not completed background checks on them.”

Many of the immigrant recruits were part of Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest (MAVNI), a program aimed to help interested immigrants enroll in the military. The program was started in 2009 and recruits needed to prove legal status as citizens or immigrants.

However, the program was expanded to Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) — children brought to the U.S. illegally — in 2016 under the Obama administration. The expansion to DACA recipients complicated and elongated the background check requirement.

About 5,000 immigrants were recruited into MAVNI in 2016 and nearly 10,000 are currently serving. Immigrants enlisted for multiple reasons, including patriotism, the desire for citizenship and financial purposes, according to the AP report.

Maryland Republican Rep. Andy Harris said tightening the standards would better benefit Americans.

“Our military must prioritize enlisting American citizens, and restore the MAVNI program to its specialized, limited scope,” he told the AP.

Mak cautioned that while he took issue with the AP not establishing evidence for policy change, he did not want his criticisms of the AP to “say there is no problem.”

“Two things can be true: the Army needs immigrant recruits and they are proven to be above average troops,” he said. “Also some of those who enlist as immigrants will not meet the background check standards and will have to be discharged.”

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