Pentagon Immigrant Recruitment Program Faces Problems

Officials claim that tougher immigration policies under the Trump administration have created problems for plans by the Pentagon to reboot a program enabling thousands of immigrants with critical African or Asian language or medical skills to join the US military and gain citizenship.

The ten-year-old program has been suspended since 2016 because of concerns that the screening of immigrant recruits was inadequate, with the vetting process since shored up by defense officials, who hoped to restart it in September. But, officials with the Department of Homeland Security created an unexpected barrier by pointing out that they would be unable to offer protection from deportation for new immigrant recruits after the expiry of their temporary US visas at the end of their military contract.

Jim Mattis, the US Defense Secretary, supported the plan to reboot the program, referred to as Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest (MAVNI). Mattis believes that the military can benefit from the cultural knowledge, language abilities, and crucial skills offered by some immigrants. In late September, he told reporters that all qualified patriots who are able and willing to serve are wanted.

The US military has recruited over 10,000 immigrants into the US military over the last ten years, but controversy over screening methods has erupted in recent times, resulting in efforts to develop a more effective screening program. Hundreds of immigrants in the intake program have been left in limbo since its suspension in 2016.