Opinion

Immigrants, The Army and Deportation

Staff/AFP/Getty Images.

Bureaucrats at the Pentagon run and manage our wars.

Bureaucrats with stars on their collars; admirals and generals we entrust with the lives of our men and women in uniform by the thousands man their “battle stations” in the Pentagon.

This gigantic bureaucracy created a special program to recruit people our military needed because there weren’t enough American citizens to do these special jobs.

The military, like nature, abhors a vacuum. Not enough medical people, find some. Not enough speakers of the languages where we are fighting, find some.

The military had learned a lesson when the Russians invaded Afghanistan in 1979. Russian defectors entered the U.S. Embassy to turn themselves over to the Americans – to defect — and despite the fact that hundreds of thousands of Russians had immigrated to the United States two generations before, the embassy had no Russian speakers on staff to handle the defectors. “Assimilation” had thinned the ranks of second and third generation Russian speakers.

To fill the ranks with people we need to fight wars the Pentagon created a special program: Military Accessions Vital to National Interest (MAVNI); its job is to recruit people identified by the Pentagon as vital to the success of military operations, people that are in short supply among U.S.-born troops.

The Defense Department initiated the program in 2009. Over 10,400 troops, mostly Army, have filled medical jobs and language specialties — like Russian, Mandarin Chinese and Pashto.  Note: the military tests all recruits for languages.

Many believed they would become citizens under fast-track programs created to attract immigrants if they joined this particular program. Some signed contracts and have been waiting for delayed entry to basic training. In the recruitment process they gave the military all their information so they could be “vetted” by the military especially if after testing they were being assigned to jobs that might be close to or involved with classified information. Many who were in the United States on visas were told to ignore the fact that some of those visas expired while they were waiting to enter basic training.

 The program is in jeopardy.

The Washington Post has been given a Pentagon memorandum dated May 19, 2017, that declares the program should end because it has strained Army resources and manpower past diminishing returns. The problem is not only “extreme vetting” costs for new immigrants but those costs are overwhelming military budgets. 

Some observers say “extreme vetting” of over 4,000 “NATURALIZED CITIZENS” is not only costly but has violated their rights by more vetting than natural born citizens have to put up with for the same jobs.

The Supreme Court has ruled that naturalized citizens cannot be treated differently than natural born citizens. It made that point in the 1967 Afroyim v. Rusk case where the government refused to issue a passport to a naturalized citizen who voted in a foreign election. No Congress or President can deny a naturalized citizen any right that a natural born citizen has, the court ruled. The Constitution’s 14thAmendment guarantees to naturalized citizens “equal protections of the laws” and “due process” under the law. The Army, however, thinks it can treat them differently.

About 1800 program recruits are waiting for basic training. The memorandum specifically states the contracts with these people should be canceled. The memo is signed by a civilian Pentagon bureaucrat named Tony Kurta (according to the Washington Post).

A retired Army officer, lawyer Margaret Stock that was involved in setting up the program in 2009 has looked at the memo and declared it a “breach of contract that was made in bad faith.”

Stock told the Post: “It’s terrible. You trusted the Army, who delayed the process, and now they’re going to cancel your contract and have you deported.”

Any and all information deportation officers need are in the individual files of the thousands of trusting men and women who thought they were joining up to serve the United States and were to be rewarded with a fast-track to citizenship.

Most of us welcome the effort made by thousands in the program and admire the program itself. But not all.

The headman of the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), Mark Krikorian – who himself never served in the military – objected that the program encouraged mercenary immigrant recruits interested only in citizenship. He is consistent. He objected to efforts by President George W. Bush to make it easier for immigrant soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines who enlisted to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan — to become citizens.

The memorandum of Mr. Kurta could harm our readiness to fight and could have been written by CIS’ Krikorian. Does it suggest ways of encouraging more American citizens to fill the gap, to enlist? We think not.  

Contreras is the Author of THE ARMENIAN LOBBY & U.S. FOREIGN POLICY (Berkeley Press 2017) and THE MEXICAN BORDER: IMMIGRATION, WAR AND A TRILLION DOLLARS IN TRADE (Floricanto Press 2016), he formerly wrote for the New American News Service of the New York Times Syndicate