Sunday 26 May 2019

Army boots out immigrants who enlisted to be American

Donald Trump has been controversial over immigration. Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Donald Trump has been controversial over immigration. Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Martha Mendoza

Some immigrant US army reservists and recruits who enlisted in the military with a promised path to citizenship are being abruptly discharged.

It is not known how many men and women who enlisted through the special recruitment programme have been booted out of the army, but immigration attorneys say they know of more than 40 who have been discharged or whose status has become questionable, jeopardising their futures.

"It was my dream to serve in the military," said reservist Lucas Calixto, a Brazilian immigrant who filed a lawsuit against the army last week. "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."

Some of the service members say they were not told why they were being discharged. Others who pressed for answers said the army informed them they'd been labelled as security risks because they have relatives abroad or because the Defence Department had not completed background checks on them.

Spokespeople for the Pentagon and the army said that, due to the pending litigation, they were unable to explain the discharges or respond to questions about whether there have been policy changes in any of the military branches.

Eligible recruits are required to have legal status in the US, such as a student visa, before enlisting. More than 5,000 immigrants were recruited in 2016 and an estimated 10,000 are currently serving. Most go to the army, but some also go to the other military branches.

To become citizens the service members need an honourable service designation, which can come after a few days at boot camp. But the recently discharged service members have had their basic training delayed, so they can't be naturalised.

Margaret Stock, an Alaska-based immigration attorney and a retired army reserve lieutenant colonel who helped create the programme, said she's been inundated by recruits who have been abruptly discharged.

All had signed enlistment contracts and taken an army oath, Ms Stock said. Many had been attending unit drills, receiving pay and undergoing training, while others had been in a "delayed entry" programme.

"Immigrants have been serving in the army since 1775," Ms 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."

Irish Independent

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