Every year, thousands of people sign up to become military service members, not just out of the desire to work for the United States of America, but also to get their citizenship. Although serving in the U.S. military as a path to gaining citizenship has been part of this country’s history since the Revolutionary War, one component could soon be a thing of the past. In a memo obtained by The Washington Post, the Pentagon is considering doing away with the Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest (MAVNI) program, which launched in 2009.
The MAVNI program, which as of now houses 1,000 recruits, is different from the “Naturalization Through Military Service” that many people are familiar with. Under MAVNI, undocumented people can sign up because they have a special skill that the U.S. military can benefit from, including medical and/or language skills.
But according to a memo prepared for Defense Secretary Jim Mattis by personnel and intelligence officials, the MAVNI program shows “potential security threats of immigrants recruited.” The memo essentially states that some immigrants signing up for the program could be doing it with intent to infiltrate the military and harm the United States.
Mattis apparently believes the vetting for MAVNI needs to be stepped up. Aside from the 1,000 recruits, another 4,100 troops (who have already become naturalized citizens through the program) could face “enhanced screenings,” which could open them up to be deported.
Government officials have also assigned “threat level tiers” to the almost 10,000 military servicemen that have already been recruited under the MAVNI program. That means current U.S. servicemen recruited via MAVNI are being ranked on how likely it is that they could turn on the U.S. As of now, the program is under review, which leaves at least 1,000 people hanging without citizenship nor service duties.
Creator of the MAVNI program, retired Lt. Col. Margaret Stock, voiced her disdain towards Pentagon officials and says their concerns are uncalled for. “If you were a bad guy who wanted to infiltrate the Army, you wouldn’t risk the many levels of vetting required in this program,” Stock told NPR.
“They’re subjecting this whole entire group of people to this extreme vetting, and it’s not based on any individual suspicion of any of these people,” Stock told NPR. They’ve passed all kinds of security checks already. That in itself is unconstitutional.”