Originally published by The Hill
Tighter immigration controls have hampered Pentagon efforts to restart a recruitment program that allowed those with valuable medical or language skills to join the military for expedited citizenship, several U.S. officials told the Associated Press.
The Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest (MAVNI) program offers foreign-born recruits with strong medical credentials or knowledge of African or Asian languages a relatively speedy path to citizenship for their service, but the program came under the gun in 2016 due to concerns that the screening process was ineffective.
It restarted last October with a tighter security check system.
The Department of Homeland Security, however, has reportedly told the Pentagon that it cannot sign an agreement stopping the deportation of foreign-born recruits when their temporary visas expire.
Previously, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service protected MAVNI recruits through an informal process when their entry into military service disrupted their temporary or student visas, according to the AP report.
A DHS official told the news agency on condition of anonymity that recruits without legal immigration status could be deported, but that the department reviewed each case individually.
The DHS and Pentagon did not immediately provide comment to The Hill regarding the report.
President Trump has been a major advocate for tightening immigration controls and has managed to alter border policy through stricter enforcement of longstanding policies and undoing previous administrations’ executive orders.
Secretary of Defense James Mattis, on the other hand, has been a large proponent of the program.
In a press conference last month, Mattis said that the stricter security checks for MAVNI recruits are “about national security” and “not about immigration.”
“We need and want every qualified patriot willing to serve and able to serve,” Mattis said.