US Army quietly discharges immigrant recruits despite promise of citizenship

A Pakistani recruit, recently discharged by the US Army, holds an American flag

A Pakistani recruit, recently discharged by the US Army, holds an American flag 

Some foreign soldiers told they were considered security risk because they have relatives abroad

The US Army has been abruptly discharging immigrant recruits and reservists who enlisted through a programme that promised them a path to citizenship, it has emerged.

Some of the recruits said they were given no reason for their discharge. Others, after pressing for an explanation, were told they were considered security risks because they have relatives abroad or because the Defence Department had not completed background checks on them. 

“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 after being unexpectedly discharged.

“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.

“Now the great feeling I had when I enlisted is going down the drain. I don’t understand why this is happening.”

Foreign nationals have served in the US military since the 1775-83 War of Independence, when Irish and French soldiers were deployed by the rebels against the British.

It is unclear how many service members who enlisted through the immigrant recruitment programme have been thrown out of the army because of their status.

However, immigration lawyers said they were aware of more than 40 enlistees who have been expelled from the forces in recent weeks, jeopardising their futures in the US.

More than 5,000 immigrants were recruited into the programme in 2016, with an estimated 10,000 currently serving. Most enter the army, but some also go into other military branches.

Eligible recruits are required to have legal status in the US, such as a student visa, before enlisting. 

To become citizens, they need to have an honourable service designation, which can sometimes come after just a few days at boot camp.

This process – known as Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest (MAVNI) – was brought in by then-president George W Bush in 2002 to swell troop numbers.

Margaret Stock, an Alaska-based immigration lawyer and a retired army reserve lieutenant colonel who helped create the immigrant programme, said she had been inundated over the past few days by recruits who have been abruptly discharged. 

All had signed enlistment contracts and taken an army oath, she said. Many were reservists who had been attending unit drills, receiving pay and undergoing training.

“Immigrants have been serving in the army since 1775,” Ms Stock added. “We wouldn’t have won the revolution without immigrants. And we’re not going to win the global war on terrorism today without immigrants.”

Mr Calixto said he was kicked out of the army soon after being promoted to private second class and was given no specific grounds other than “personnel security”.

The 28-year-old, who moved to the US when he was 12 and now lives in Massachusetts, said he had joined the army out of patriotis

“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 US and was so honoured to be able to serve this great country.” 

The 22-year-old’s military file, seen by the Associated Press, states that he is so deeply loyal to the US that his relationships with his family and fiancee in Pakistan would not make him a security threat. Yet the army cited those same foreign ties as a concern to justify his discharge.

Another discharged recruit, an Iranian, said he had enlisted in the programme to gain medical training after coming to the US to study engineering. 

He said he had felt proud that he was “pursuing everything legally and living an honourable life”, before he was thrown out of the army a few weeks ago.

“It’s terrible because I put my life in the line for this country, but I feel like I’m being treated like trash,” said the recruit, who did not want to be named because he fears his involvement with the US military could put him at risk if he is forced to return to Iran.

It is unclear how being discharged could affect the recruits’ status as legal immigrants.

In a statement, the Defence Department said: “All service members (ie. contracted recruits, active duty, Guard and Reserve) and those with an honourable discharge are protected from deportation.”

However, lawyers said many of the immigrants let go in recent weeks were given an “uncharacterised discharge”, neither dishonourable nor honourable.

George W Bush introduced “expedited naturalisation” for immigrant soldiers in 2002 in an effort to boost military recruitment. Seven years later MAVNI became an official recruiting programme.

Since 9/11, nearly 110,000 members of the armed forces have gained citizenship by serving in the US military, according to the Defence Department. 

MAVNI came under fire from Republicans when Barack Obama added young immigrants who were brought into the US illegally to the list of eligible enlistees. In response, the military added additional security clearances for recruits to pass before heading to boot camp.

Donald Trump’s administration has added even more hurdles, creating a backlog within the Defence Department.

Republican Congressman Andy Harris, who has supported legislation to limit MAVNI, said the programme was established by executive order and never properly authorised by Congress. 

“Our military must prioritise enlisting American citizens, and restore the MAVNI programme to its specialised, limited scope,” he added. 

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. 



Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Files Request To Hire Foreign Workers — Again

Image result for trump + mar a Lago

Trump touts “buy American, hire American.” Not for his businesses, though.

Just over a year after Donald Trump signed his  “Buy American and Hire American” executive order, his Mar-a-Lago golf resort has filed for permission to hire 61 foreign workers.

Trump’s Palm Beach business filed requests with the U.S. Labor Department for additional visas for foreign servers and cooks, according to records submitted Thursday and Friday. The employees would work October through the following May. Servers would earn $12.68 an hour and cooks would be paid $13.31 an hour.

Since late 2015, Mar-a-Lago has filed 10 separate requests for multiple temporary work visas for foreign employees.

The New York Times has reported that since 2010, only 17 of 300 American applicants were hired to work at the resort that Trump now calls the “Winter White House” or the “Southern White House.” Since 2010 Mar-a-Lago alone has obtained a total of 500 H-2B visas for seasonal foreign workers, according to The New Yorker.

The Trump Organization hired at least 1,260 foreign workers from 2001 to 2016, according to a CNN analysis. Trump appears to prefer foreign workers at his resorts who are female, young, attractive, and with Romanian or South African accents that convey an “exotic appeal,” former workers told the network.

In order to obtain the H-2B visas required for non-agricultural workers, employers must prove that there are not enough Americans willing to do the work — which Trump has insisted is the case.

But in a similar situation last year, Mar-a-Lago apparently didn’t make much of an effort to find American workers. The Washington Post reported that Mar-a-Lago only placed two hard-to-find classified ads in tiny type for waiters with no phone number or email information. Workers could apply only by fax or mail. The ads were posted a week after the president’s resort asked the Labor Department for permission to hire 70 foreign workers, which was granted last November.

Nonprofit placement agency CareerSource Palm Beach County told The Palm Beach Post that there were many Americans eager to work at Mar-a-Lago, and that they agency has a database last November of 5,136 qualified candidates for “various hospitality positions.”

Despite Trump railing about immigrants in the country, his administration made an extra 15,000 H-2B visas available for businesses in May.

Mar-a-Lago was applying for foreign worker visas about the same time the president launched “Made in America Week” at the White House a year ago.  

Trump said then: “We believe jobs must be offered to American workers first. Does that make sense?”



GOP to attack unfunded federal mandates next week

House Republicans will make a new push next week to rein in federal rules and regulations that can cost local governments companies millions of dollars each year — 23 years after Republicans first sought to limit unfunded federal mandates.

GOP leaders will call up legislation to amend the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act of 1995. That law required agencies to try to limit the cost of federal rules on local governments and companies, but Republicans say it has fallen short of its promise over the last two decades, and needs improvement.

For example, the original law required agencies to consider less expensive alternatives to "major" regulations that will impose costs of $100 million or more per year.

Republicans say the government has found several ways around that rule. For example, the 1995 law says closer scrutiny of regulations is only required when those regulations are launched with a notice of proposed rulemaking, but a federal report found that about one third of these major rules aren't launched that way.

The bill, from Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., would close that loophole and require scrutiny for all major rules, regardless of how they came about.

According to a Republican report on the bill, several independent federal agencies are exempt from the original law, but Foxx's bill would correct that.

Foxx has tried to pass her bill to improve the law for the last few Congresses, and said it's needed because federal rules are still running roughshod over companies and local government officials.

"Every year, Washington imposes thousands of rules on local governments and small businesses," she said last year when she first introduced the bill. "Hidden in those rules are costly mandates that stretch state and city budgets and make it harder for businesses to hire."

Republicans have spent the last few years finding stories that bear out her assessment, and found some examples showing that even regulations costing less than $100 million can hurt localities.

In 2017, for example, Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam "wrote the EPA provided Tennessee with only 8 percent of the $32 million it will cost the state to implement Clean Water Act programs," according to the GOP report on Foxx's bill.

That same year, the U.S. Virgin Islands got $5.4 million to pay $36 million in expenses to implement the Clean Air Act regulations.

The Government Accountability Office also told Republicans that federal agencies today don't have to consider lost revenues due to regulations, and only need to consider if expenditures of more than $100 million are needed to implement it.

Foxx's bill would require agencies to factor in possible lost profits due to regulatory compliance, which could be a change that turns more regulations into "major" rules that need more scrutiny.

And finally, the bill would codify some the changes President Bill Clinton tried to implement through an executive order in 1993, such as worrying more about the private sectors often costly contribution to compliance.

As expected, the GOP-backed bill is a partisan measure — the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee approved it in March in a party-line 20-10 vote. That means it will likely to be difficult to get through the Senate.

But the bill could help Republicans maintain their image as the party that's more worried about people's jobs as they head into the 2018 midterm elections. The GOP continues to play up how its tax cut bill means more money in the pockets of everyday people, and passing Foxx's bill will let them argue they're also out to protect companies and local governments from being forced by the federal government to spend money they don't have.




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