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Army Expands Program With Fast Track to Citizenship for Immigrants

By    |   Thursday, 09 April 2015 03:04 PM

The U.S. Army is expanding a controversial program under which immigrants, including some illegal who have certain health care or foreign language skills, can get on a fast track to citizenship.

The MAVNI (Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest) program, which had been capped at 1,500 immigrant enlistees per year, has been expanded to 3,000 for the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, and to 5,000 for fiscal year 2016, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Also, for the first time, the program will accept Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) applicants, reflecting President Barack Obama's 2012 executive action blocking deportations of immigrants brought to the U.S. as children who have undocumented immigration status.

So far, an Army spokesman told the Journal, 43 DACA applicants have enlisted and soon will report to basic training.

Following basic training, an Army recruitment site states, "Individuals who join the Army through this program are able to move from non-immigrant visa or asylee/refugee/TPS directly to citizenship, bypassing the green card process. In most cases participants in the program will become naturalized U.S. citizens by the time they graduate from ten weeks of basic combat training or accept a commission as Army officers."

Margaret Stock, a retired Army Reserve lieutenant colonel who created the original MAVNI program, told the Journal, "In this time of increased global conflict, the U.S. military needs smart and talented people like these immigrants, who continue the proud historical tradition of immigrants serving in America’s Army."

Lt. Cmdr. Nate Christensen, a Department of Defense spokesman, told Fox News Latino that those eligible include "certain health care professionals in areas where the military services have shortfalls and certain experts in languages critical to the Department."

Notably, Spanish is not one of the nearly 50 languages being recruited, Go Army states.

About 2,900 people have entered through previous MAVNI requirements, he said, adding, "We do not know how many people with the required skills will apply to enter the military and therefore do not have an estimate of how many people this will potentially impact."

As service members are being forced out to meet budget caps, Justin Velez-Hagan, founder of the National Puerto Rican Chamber of Commerce, told Fox News Latino, "I know enlisted people who are getting pushed out of the service right now. It’s hard at the same time (to) have people who aren’t in the country legally" replace them.

"It’s tough to continue to fight for what you believe in if what you believe in is getting changed."

However, immigration activists complain that the program is too restrictive. Cesar Vargas, of the DRM Action Coalition, told Fox News Latino, "The program is small, and the skill-set that they’re looking for is so restrictive. I know maybe one person who might qualify."

Maj. Gen. Allen Batschelet of U.S. Army Recruiting Command told the Journal, "The expansion of the program enhances the Army’s ability to accomplish its assigned missions through recruiting highly qualified medical personnel in certain critical specialties as well as individuals with foreign language skills and cultural knowledge and understanding."

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The U.S. Army is expanding a controversial program under which immigrants, including some illegal who have certain health care or foreign language skills, can get on a fast track to citizenship.
army, immigrants, fast track, citizenship, health care
Thursday, 09 April 2015 03:04 PM
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