For many immigrants, the military is a rewarding and meaningful path to citizenship. Through a special program issued by the Defense Department, upwards of 5,000 immigrants were recruited into the Army and other branches of the military with the promise of citizenship. Yet for an estimated 40 United States reservists and active duty personnel, that promise was abruptly broken when they were discharged without warning.
Many of the discharged recruits were not given any reason for the action, while others were told their background checks had not been completed or they were considered “security risks” because of their links to relatives abroad. No one from the military has yet to confirm if there has been a policy change regarding foreign-born recruits.
Military Path to Citizenship
According to the special defense department program, men and women with legal status in the United States are eligible to enlist. An estimated 5,000 immigrants were recruited through the program, and nearly 10,000 are already serving, mostly in the Army. The military focused on recruits with skills in certain languages and medical specialties. To receive citizenship, the recruits must earn an honorable service designation. The 40 men and women who were discharged will not receive this distinction because they did not complete basic training.
The Future for Discharged Immigrant Recruits
From what immigration experts can assess, the foreign-born military recruits received an “uncharacterized discharge” which is neither honorable nor dishonorable. This distinction may leave them vulnerable to deportation. The program, which was conceived under President George W. Bush has received stronger limitations on the recruitment process under the current administration.
In an effort to fight the action, one Brazilian immigrant filed a lawsuit in Washington, D.C. in hopes of reversing the discharge. In the suit, he alleges the Defense Department gave him no specific grounds for the discharge and no opportunity to defend himself or appeal the decision. The man arrived in the United States at the age of 12 and joined the military out of a sense of patriotism. His discharge came shortly after he had been promoted to private second class.
Philadelphia immigration lawyers are working to keep their military clients eligible for naturalization while their background checks are delayed. This move allows them to begin basic training and move ahead with their military career until their status can be determined.
Immigrants who choose to serve in the military ahead of their citizenship should be protected. Receiving an “uncharacterized discharge” will not protect them from removal, even if they are willing to make the ultimate sacrifice to defend the freedom of others.
Philadelphia Immigration Lawyers at Surin & Griffin, P.C. Fight for Immigrants’ Rights to Serve in the Military
The experienced immigration attorneys at Surin & Griffin, P.C. work with clients throughout the state of Pennsylvania facing all types of immigration issues. We offer smart legal counsel for your citizenship, naturalization, and visa matters. Call 215-925-4435 or contact us online to schedule a consultation with a multilingual immigration lawyer in Philadelphia.