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Another about-face for immigrant enlistees

Compassion | U.S. Army rescinds or suspends dozens of discharges
by Rob Holmes
Posted 8/22/18, 03:12 pm

The U.S. Army in the last week reinstated dozens of immigrant enlistees discharged with little explanation last month. Court records filed this week showed the discharges of many other recruits had been suspended and were under further review, Army Assistant Deputy for Recruiting and Retention Linden St. Clair said.

Since Aug. 17, the Army has rescinded discharge orders for six recruits who had sued, and 32 reservists have been reinstated. Another 149 people have had their discharges suspended while under review.

The recruits joined the military with the promise of citizenship in exchange for serving through the Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest (MAVNI) program, created in 2008 to enlist immigrants possessing critical foreign language skills or medical specialties. Recruits had to have lawful immigration status and U.S. residence. Nearly 10,000 people entered the military through MAVNI before it was suspended in 2017. The military at that time said it needed to focus on more rigorous background checks of those men and women already in the pipeline.

In July, some recruits found themselves summarily booted or had their contracts canceled. Some said they were given no explanation for the about-face. Others said the Army blacklisted them because of security concerns about relatives in their home countries or incomplete security checks.

The military said it is working quickly to review the cases of immigrants waiting to hear whether their discharges will be revoked or left in place, but it has to balance security concerns, as well.

“Since 2013, more than 20 individuals who accessed via the MAVNI program have become the subjects of [Department of Defense] and/or FBI counterintelligence and/or criminal investigations,” Pentagon spokeswoman Maj. Carla Gleason told NPR.

Associated Press/Photo by Charles Reed/USCIS Associated Press/Photo by Charles Reed/USCIS An immigrant child looks at a book Aug. 9 at South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley, Texas.

Kids in court

Thousands of minor immigrant children stand to gain visas allowing them to stay in the United States following a California Supreme Court decision last week. The ruling, which overturns a lower court decision, will help children who fled abusive or absentee parents avoid deportation.

Children will no longer have to have uninterested or abusive parents come to court in the United States for their visa cases. The court determined that simply notifying a foreign absentee parent of a child’s immigration court proceedings was sufficient.

At issue was the case of plaintiff Bianka M., who left Honduras as a 10-year-old and arrived alone in the United States in 2013. Bianka’s mother was already living in the United States, and Bianka claimed she could not live in Honduras with her father, who had abandoned her before birth. The lower court was concerned the father’s rights might be violated in giving Bianka’s mother sole custody despite her father being “an unwilling foreign resident,” according to Bianka’s attorneys. The ruling has repercussions for thousands of other children in California who fled Mexico and other Latin American countries. —R.H.

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Rob Holmes

Rob is a graduate of the WORLD Journalism Institute’s mid-career course. Follow Rob on Twitter @SouthernFlyer.

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