Yesterday the Associated Press (AP) reported that immigrants who had joined the U.S. Army in exchange for a promise that they could become U.S. citizens are now quietly being discharged from military service by the Trump administration.
The list of people being discharged includes both men and women but the exact number affected by this new policy was not known, according to the AP. It is known, however, that more than 40 active service members who enlisted through the special immigrant recruitment program are being represented by immigration attorneys.
Eligible recruits for the program must have legal status in the U.S., such as a student visa, before enlisting. More than 5,000 immigrants were recruited into the program in 2016, and an estimated 10,000 are currently serving.
The new action by the Trump administration is throwing the future of these service members into complete disarray as their legal status in the United States — and in the Army — has become questionable.
“It was my dream to serve in the military,” said Lucas Calixto from Brazil, who filed a lawsuit last week trying to fight is discharge. “Since this country has been so good to me, I thought it was the least I could do to give back to my adopted country and serve in the United States military.”
Service members who were interviewed said they have not been told why they are being discharged. Others said the Army told them they’d been labeled as security risks because they have relatives abroad or because their background checks were not completed.
Margaret Stock is an immigration attorney and also a retired Army Reserve lieutenant colonel who helped create the immigrant recruitment program. She told AP that she is now swamped with requests for help from immigrants who have been abruptly discharged.
According to Stock, all of these people had signed enlistment contracts, and they have all taken the Army oath.
“Immigrants have been serving in the Army since 1775,” Stock said. “We wouldn’t have won the revolution without immigrants. And we’re not going to win the global war on terrorism today without immigrants.”
Stock also said that the service members she’s heard from had been told the U.S. Department of Defense that they had not completed their extensive background checks, which include CIA, FBI and National Intelligence Agency screenings. Therefore, by default, they do not meet the background check requirement because the government never does one.
“It’s a vicious cycle,” Stock said.
Count this new discharge program as just one more way that the Trump administration has declared war on immigrants.
I am a lifelong Democrat with a passion for social justice and progressive issues. I have degrees in writing, economics and law from the University of Iowa.