The U.S. Army says it has stopped discharging immigrant recruits in citizenship program, for now

A soldier salutes the flag.
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The U.S. Army has temporarily suspended "processing of all involuntary separation actions" against immigrants recruited into a program that promised a path to citizenship in return for military service, according to a July 20 memo shared with The Associated Press on Thursday. Acting Assistant Secretary of the Army for Manpower and Reserve Affairs Marshall Williams signed the order a few days after the Army reversed its discharge of 28-year-old Brazilian reservist Lucas Calixto, who had sued the Army. In early July, AP had reported that dozens of immigrant recruits were being discharged without explanation or warning, putting their immigration status in jeopardy.

Williams ordered a review of the involuntary separation process for recruits in the program, Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest program (MAVNI), by Aug. 15. Margaret Stock, an immigration attorney who helped create the immigrant recruitment program as an Army Reserve lieutenant colonel, said the Army was admitting it had a policy of discharging immigrants and "violating the soldiers' rights," and suggested it only reversed the policy due to lawsuits.

"It violates Army regulations to discharge them without telling them why they are being discharged," Stock tells The Washington Post. "It's clear to me that they just want to get rid of people — and it looks like a good clean excuse to get rid of people to make it look like they failed a background check." She suggested the Army "go back and rescind the people who were improperly discharged," but there's no proof that's happening. In a statement Thursday, Army Lt. Col. Nina L. Hill said "we continue to abide by all requirements to include completing a thorough background investigation" on all recruits.

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Peter Weber

Peter Weber is a senior editor at, and has handled the editorial night shift since the website launched in 2008. A graduate of Northwestern University, Peter has worked at Facts on File and The New York Times Magazine. He speaks Spanish and Italian and plays bass and rhythm cello in an Austin rock band. Follow him on Twitter.