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Pentagon memo suggests scrapping program for foreign-born recruits, exposing 1,000 to quick deportation

The Defense Department is looking into canceling enlistment contracts for 1,800 foreign-born military recruits, about 1,000 of whom no longer have valid visas, opening them to the risk of deportation, The Washington Post reports, citing an undated Pentagon memo prepared for Defense Secretary James Mattis. The memo cites what it calls heightened security threats from the immigrants in the program, Military Accessions Vital to National Interest (MAVNI), launched in 2009 to fill crucial medical and language staffing gaps by offering foreign-born recruits expedited U.S. citizenship in return for military service.

Since its launch, MANVI has brought in more than 10,400 mostly Army recruits to jobs deemed critical for military operations, though the Pentagon stepped up security screenings for recruits in the program last year. Along with canceling the contracts of the 1,800 foreign-born recruits who have yet to be given orders for basic training, the memo suggests canning 2,400 part-time troops in the MANVI program who have yet to attend basic training, and submit another 4,100 — most of them naturalized U.S. citizens — to "enhanced screening," if the Pentagon can navigate the "significant legal constraints" of monitoring U.S. citizens without cause, the memo says.

The 1,000 recruits at risk for deportation have seen their visas expire while waiting for the Pentagon to send them to basic training, and canceling their enrollment would remove their protected status, not just their pathway to citizenship. Also, "the recruits are on government rolls detailing their addresses, phone numbers, and legal statuses, making them prime targets for removal," The Washington Post notes. "It remains unclear if military officials would hand over that information to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement."

"It's terrible," retired Army officer Margaret Stock, who helped set up the MANVI program, tells The Washington Post. "You trusted the Army, who delayed the process, and now they're going to cancel your contract and have you deported." Pentagon spokesman Johnny Michael told the Post on Monday that the Defense Department is reviewing the MANVI program requirements, but declined to elaborate or confirm the authenticity of the memo. You can read more at The Washington Post.