NEW YORK — For more than a decade, the U.S. has offered immigrants who join the military a fast track to citizenship. But now, some immigrant recruits and reservists say they’ve been abruptly discharged without being told why.
CBS News spoke to one Pakistani man about being kicked out of the military. He didn’t want his identity shown in fear of reprisal if he has to return to his home country.
“The feeling was just like getting kicked out of your own home,” he said. “I was so shocked there was so many tears in my eyes, my hands couldn’t move fast enough to wipe them.”
He said that on June 11, his recruiter called him and to say the 22-year-old will be discharged, despite the fact that he says he passed a military background check.
He had enlisted in 2016, with hopes of becoming a legal U.S. citizen through a program called Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest, or MAVNI. The program began in 2008 as a way for the military to find people with special medical and language skills. In return, the foreign-born recruits were promised a path to citizenship. Since 2008, more than 10,000 people have enlisted through MAVNI.
Last year, the Department of Defense suspended the program and announced new changes for current foreign recruits which included increased background checks. But several foreign-born reservists and recruits have reportedly been discharged without any real explanation.
U.S. Army officials issued a statement to CBS News saying: “Any recruit, to include those recruited through the MAVNI program, who receives an unfavorable security screening is deemed unsuitable for military service and is administratively discharged.”
Tom Porter, from the group Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, said there are still a lot of questions.
“What exactly is happening, who is getting deported,” he said. “A lot of questions and not enough answers so far.”