The anti-immigrant fever that has infected the Trump administration has now spread to the armed forces according to a report from the Associated Press.
“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.”
While the AP was not able to get a definitive number of people who enlisted in the Army through the special recruitment program that have been discharged, immigration attorneys say they know of more than 40 who have either been quietly ejected from the service or whose status has come into question, placing their futures in jeopardy.
“It was my dream to serve in the military,” said Lucas Calixto, a Brazilian immigrant reservist who last week filed a lawsuit against the Army. “Since this country has been so good to me, I thought it was the least I could do to give back to my adopted country and serve in the United States military.”
Adding insult to injury, many of the people being booted out of the Army were not even given explanations for their discharge. Those who persisted in seeking reasons for their sudden change of fortunes were told that they had been labeled security risks because of overseas relatives or because they had not completed background checks.
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Pentagon press representatives refused to comment on the discharges of immigrant recruits citing the pending litigation as their excuse.
The immigrants needed to have legal status in order to participate in the expedited citizenship program and around 10,000 people are currently serving under its auspices.
From the AP:
Margaret Stock, an Alaska-based immigration attorney and a retired Army Reserve lieutenant colonel who helped create the immigrant recruitment program, said she’s been inundated over the past several days by recruits who have been abruptly discharged.
All had signed enlistment contracts and taken an Army oath, Stock 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.”
“Immigrants have been serving in the Army since 1775,” Stock said. ‘We wouldn’t have won the revolution without immigrants. And we’re not going to win the global war on terrorism today without immigrants.”
The recruits affected by the sudden change in status were devastated by the news.
One service member originally from Pakistan told the AP of his reaction when he heard about the end of his curtailed military career.
“There were so many tears in my eyes that my hands couldn’t move fast enough to wipe them away,” he said. “I was devastated, because I love the U.S. and was so honored to be able to serve this great country.”
An Iranian-born recruit was similarly affected, particularly given the tensions between his native land and the Trump administration.
“It’s terrible because I put my life in the line for this country, but I feel like I’m being treated like trash,” he said. “If I am not eligible to become a U.S. citizen, I am really scared to return to my country.”
While the Defense Department claims that all current service members and those with honorable discharges are protected from deportation proceedings, immigration attorneys told the AP that the immigrant recruits that have been ejected recently were given “uncharacterized discharges,” neither dishonorable nor honorable.
Given the fact that the United States has maintained all-volunteer armed forces since the end of the draft in 1973 at the end of the Vietnam War, the importance of having a ready pool of qualified recruits to fill the ranks has led to a lowering of the standards necessary to enlist for full-fledged American citizens, many of whom see a clearer path to a successful career through college rather the armed forces with the added benefit of a lesser chance of physical danger.
The expedited naturalization program for immigrant soldiers was originally created by George W. Bush in 2002 to address the need for a larger number of service members with the expansion of the country’s military engagement in Afghanistan and Iraq. Non-citizen immigrants have loyally served in America’s armed forces since the Revolutionary War, however.
A recent review by the nonprofit research institution, the RAND Corporation, discovered that immigrant soldiers have been more cost-effective than native service members, outperforming their fellow soldiers in the areas of attrition, performance, education, and promotions.
It is undeniable that this latest move by the Pentagon to renege on their commitments to these loyal recruits is a politically motivated policy implemented by nativists in the Trump administration. It’s unfortunate that in a country where only the aboriginal inhabitants have a true right to be called Native Americans, these “nativists'” abhorrent attitudes are allowed to control the recruitment policies.
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