Despite efforts at recruiting new members falling short, the U.S. military is quietly discharging immigrant recruits, according to a recent report.
The Associated Press (AP) reported last week that many immigrants who enlisted in the military (military service is one of the pathways to citizenship) have been discharged from service, with only vague explanations given as to why they were no longer allowed to serve.
“It was my dream to serve in the military,” Brazilian immigrant Lucas Calixto, who is suing the U.S. Army, told the AP. “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.”
While military spokespeople did not clarify to the AP as to whether or not there was a change in policy within the Department of Defense about immigrant recruits, some immigrant recruits who were discharged said their discharge was due to being labeled a “security risk,” as they have family members living abroad, or because of their background checks being held up in Pentagon bureaucracy.
But immigration attorney and military veteran Margaret Stock, who helped create the Pentagon’s military recruitment program, isn’t buying it. Stock told the AP her office has been flooded with calls from immigrant recruits who had been recently discharged with little explanation.
“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.”
According to a March report in Army Times, recent efforts to bolster recruiting through expensive advertising campaigns have proved fruitless in the Army’s effort to get its active-duty personnel up to 500,000 soldiers. The Army’s goal of landing 4,000 new recruits each year has reportedly been cut in half due to budgetary concerns, and the Army has so far been unable to reach recruiting goals despite the troop recruitment goal being cut.
Aside from the Army cutting immigrant recruits despite failing to meet recruitment goals, immigrants who have been discharged fear retribution if their naturalization is denied and they’re sent back to their birth countries:
The Pakistani service member who spoke to the AP said he learned in a phone call a few weeks ago that his military career was over.
“There were so many tears in my eyes that my hands couldn’t move fast enough to wipe them away,” he said. “I was devastated, because I love the U.S. and was so honored to be able to serve this great country.”
He asked that his name be withheld because he fears he might be forced to return to Pakistan, where he could face danger as a former U.S. Army enlistee.
While the Pentagon hasn’t definitively said whether or not immigrant recruits are being targeted, the Trump administration’s harsh immigration policies may be playing a role in the dismissing of immigrant recruits. Earlier this year, Trump unveiled an immigration agenda that would not reduce the net number of immigrants that come into the U.S., but would rather discourage family-based immigration — like the kind Melania Trump used to get citizenship for her family. His immigration policies have been criticized for favoring immigrants from predominantly white countries, while simultaneously making it harder for immigrants from predominantly black and brown countries to come to the U.S.
Tom Cahill is a contributor for Grit Post who covers political and economic news. He lives in Bend, Oregon. Send him an email at tom DOT v DOT cahill AT gmail DOT com.