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6/28: ‘Honor our contract’: Lawmakers press Trump not to deport foreign-born military recruits
Released 20 August 2017  By Alex Horton – Washington Post

‘Honor our contract’: Lawmakers press Trump not to deport foreign-born military recruits

Alex Horton – Washington Post
June 28, 2017

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/checkpoint/wp/2017/06/28/honor-our-contract-lawmakers-press-trump-not-to-deport-foreign-born-military-recruits/

Three lawmakers are pressing President Trump and the Pentagon to
intervene on a proposal to cancel enlistment contracts for 1,000
immigrant military recruits in a bid to shield them from deportation.

Rep. Betty McCollum (D-Minn.) will propose an amendment to constrain the
Pentagon from eliminating those contracts in an appropriations committee
markup Thursday, after a report Monday from The Washington Post about
internal Defense Department recommendations to Defense Secretary Jim
Mattis.

“For the Defense Department to even consider terminating these contracts
is a betrayal of people who want to serve the United States,” McCollum
told The Post on Wednesday. “My amendment is a first step to holding the
Pentagon accountable on its commitments to foreign nationals who want to
fill critical military roles.”

The foreign-born recruits enlisted in the military through the
Pentagon’s Military Accessions Vital to National Interest program, an
initiative to harness medical and language skills in exchange for
fast-tracked citizenship.

The story provoked outrage from both chambers of Congress. Rep. Grace
Meng (D-N.Y.) demanded personal assurances from Trump to step into the
fray and block any potential forced removals.

“I feel it is only right that we honor our contract with them, and that
we allow these individuals to continue to live in America once their
service has concluded,” Meng said in a letter to Trump on Tuesday.

[The Pentagon promised citizenship to immigrants who served. Now it
might help deport them.]

“As a country, we made a commitment to thousands of brave men and women
who are willing to lay down their lives in service to our great nation.
I’m sad to see that with President Trump as commander in chief, even our
military can’t be trusted to keep its promises,” Sen. Tammy Duckworth
(D-Ill.), an Army veteran wounded in combat, told The Post on Wednesday.

“These recruits deserve the chance to defend our freedom instead of
being put at risk for deportation. Anything else is a breach of
contract,” she said.

A Pentagon memo obtained by The Post said layers of additional security
screenings and concerns over potential threats created a logjam of
applicants, which overtasked resources and led personnel officials to
recommend the cancellation of contracts for about 1,800 recruits waiting
to train — about 1,000 of whom hold no legal immigration status,
according to the memo.

Since 2009, more than 10,400 troops, most of them with service in the
Army, have served in uniform with medical skills and language
specialties central to established or growing areas of concern — such as
Russian, Mandarin Chinese and Pashto — which were identified by the
Pentagon as vital to the success of military operations but in short
supply among U.S.-born troops.

An unknown number of recruits have received deferred action from
immigration authorities due to their involvement in the program, which
would be reversed if the recommendations made in the memo are approved,
leaving the recruits vulnerable to deportation.

[They served in the U.S. military and hoped for citizenship. Then they
got deported.]

The White House did not respond to a request for comment. Johnny
Michael, a spokesman for the Pentagon, declined to comment on the letter
and the ongoing discussions about the fate of the program.

Pressure from Capitol Hill might put Trump between two opposing forces
related to his campaign rhetoric. Shedding nearly 2,000 skilled troops
at a time when the Army seeks to beef up after recent years of personnel
drawdowns could run contrary to his promise to rebuild the military to
make it “so big and so strong and so great.”

But Trump has also made tougher immigration policies central in his
administration, with ongoing legal battles over sanctuary cities and the
Supreme Court recently allowing some parts of his travel ban executive
order to go into effect.

Checkpoint newsletter

Military, defense and security at home and abroad.

Trump is reportedly aware of the ongoing issues facing foreign-born
veterans who served in the U.S. military but were deported for various
crimes before they filed for naturalization through the military.

“We should do something about this,” Trump recently said to
congressional Democrats before his staff intervened to explain the
thorny issue, according to BuzzFeed.

The Pentagon memo also recommended to Mattis that 4,100 troops already
serving in the force — most of whom are naturalized citizens through the
program — should face “enhanced screening” to quell concern that the
program could be used by infiltrators. Officials conceded it would be
difficult to navigate “significant legal constraints” of “continuous
monitoring” of citizens without cause, according to the memo.

In a not-so-subtle reference to Trump’s campaign slogan, Meng described
the recruits in danger of deportation as “patriotic” examples in need of
White House intervention.

“They are exactly the type of individuals who will continue to make
America great,” Meng said.


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