A Defense Department program that offers citizenship to immigrants with special skills is in doubt, after Pentagon officials say it poses security risks and takes too many resources to vet candidates.
That’s according to a Pentagon memo from last month reported on by the Washington Post.
The Defense Department is considering a plan to cancel enlistment contracts for 1,000 foreign-born recruits without legal immigration status, knowingly exposing them to deportation, the Post reported.
The program in question is called Military Accessions Vital to National Interest, a recruitment pilot program, according to a Defense Department fact sheet.
The program was expected to recruit up to 5,200 people in fiscal year 2016.
The Defense Department authorized the program to recruit “certain legal aliens” whose skills are considered to vital to the national interest — such as physicians, nurses and experts in language with “associated cultural backgrounds”
The languages sought are mostly Middle Eastern, Asian and Eastern European. Spanish isn’t on the list.
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There’s a long history of non-citizens serving in the United States military — going back to the founding of the nation.
Later, the Lodge Act of 1950 permitted non-citizen Eastern Europeans to enlist between 1950 and 1959.
The United States officially began recruiting Filipino citizens into the Navy in the late 1940s — following the signing of the Military Bases Agreement of 1947, which allowed U.S. military bases in the Philippines.
As a result, more than 35,000 Filipinos enlisted in the Navy between 1952 and 1991.
Today, about 5,000 legal permanent resident aliens, also known as green card holders, enlist each year. They are afforded an opportunity for early citizenship.
Following a 2002 executive order, the Pentagon has worked with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to streamline citizenship processing for service members.
Some critics have said military officials didn’t do enough to make non-citizen troops aware of the rules for fast-tracked citizenship — and that it wasn’t automatic. Some veterans who were honorably discharged have been deported after committing crimes as civilians.
Since Sept. 11, 2001, more than 109,000 troops have gained their citizenship by serving in the U.S. military.
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