On this Good Friday and during Passover, we should keep in our thoughts and prayers our military service men and women and their families. Many do not know how much our military relies on a program started in April of 2009 to recruit lawful nonimmigrants and immigrants to service in critically needed positions, including priests. See http://tinyurl.com/3l4kt8l The program is referred to as Military Accessions Vital to National Interest (MAVNI). The program has also been used for language specialists and critical medical personnel. See http://tinyurl.com/3tksdcy
In a report posted yesterday, the AP outlined that both the Army and Navy had added immigration personnel from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to their boot camps in certain locations to assist foreign born personnel to be processed for citizenship. U.S. immigration law provides special expedited processing for those serving on active military duty in times of designated conflict. For more information on military naturalization, please refer to: http://tinyurl.com/66c2spr and http://tinyurl.com/633wv54 from USCIS.
Lt. Col. Margaret Stock wrote a great reference article in November of 2009 regarding the history of immigrants in the military for the American Immigration Council. It is entitled, “Immigrants in the Military Five Years after 9/11,” which is available at http://tinyurl.com/4242bsn. She was also critical to the creation of the MAVNI program. In January of 2006, Congress repealed prior statutes that had governed enlistment in the military services and replacing them with a single statute. This new statute provided the authority to the Secretaries of each military service to waive the requirement that a person seeking to enlist be a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident (LPR), if they determined that, “such enlistment is vital to the national interest.” Then and current, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates used this authority in November of 2008, when he authorized the MAVNI program, under which up to 1,000 legal non‐citizens with critical skills would be allowed to join the U.S. Armed Forces despite their lack of LPR status. Using the new MAVNI program, the Army, Navy, and Air Force began recruiting certain non‐LPR, but lawfully present in the U.S., non‐citizens who were licensed health care professionals or fluent in one of thirty‐five strategic languages. The initial MAVNI fact sheet is available at: http://www.defense.gov/news/mavni-fact-sheet.pdf
ELIGIBILITY (Initial program was for 1,000 applicants and ended on December 31, 2009. The MAVNI program was then granted extensions through December 31, 2011. )
1. The applicant must be in one of the following categories at time of enlistment.
a. asylee, refugee, Temporary Protected Status (TPS), or
b. nonimmigrant categories E, F, H, I, J, K, L, M, O, P, Q, R, S, T, TC, TD, TN, U, or V
2. The applicant must have been in valid status in one of those categories for at least two years immediately prior to the enlistment date, but it does not have to be the same category as theone held on the date of enlistment; and
3. An applicant who may be eligible on the basis of a nonimmigrant category at time of enlistment (see 1b above) must not have had any single absence from the United States of more than 90 days during the two year period immediately preceding the date of enlistment.
Health Care Professionals (HCP)
• Applicants must fill medical specialties where the service has a shortfall
• Applicants must meet all qualification criteria required for their medical specialty, and the criteria for foreign-trained DoD medical personnel recruited under other authorities
• Applicants must demonstrate proficiency in English
• Applicants must commit to at least 3 years of active duty, or six years in the Selected Reserve
Enlisted Individuals with Special Language and Culture Backgrounds
• Applicants must possess specific language and culture capabilities in a language critical to DoD
• Applicants must demonstrate a language proficiency
• Applicants must meet all existing enlistment eligibility criteria
• Applicants must enlist for at least 4 years of active duty
The USCIS announcement of the naturalization of the first doctor recruited under the MAVNI program is available at: http://tinyurl.com/66zulqv. As noted above, the MAVNI pilot program was originally scheduled to continue until December 31, 2009. After a couple of extensions, the MAVNI pilot program is now authorized to operate until December 31, 2011. The MAVNI pilot program is currently on hold as of 1/14/2011 due to the implementation of the new process called “additional security screening procedure.” It is expected to reopen once the new process is completely implemented. MAVNI is not available to undocumented immigrants or those who have fallen out of nonimmigrant status. More information about MAVNI critical facts is available via yet another excellent article by Lt. Col. Stock at: http://www.scribd.com/doc/12866758/Margaret-Stock. Her top MAVNI points are as follows:
- Under This Program, More Legal Aliens Can Enlist in the United States Military.
- Unauthorized Immigrants do NOT qualify for MAVNI.
- The Army Is Not Sponsoring Anyone For A Visa Or Assisting Anyone Outside the U.S. to Enter the U.S. In Order to Enlist.
- Persons Who Enlist Under MAVNI Can Apply for U.S. Citizenship Immediately, Even if They Do Not Have LPR Status.
- Persons Who Enlist Under MAVNI Will Be Fingerprinted and Screened.
- Health Care Professionals Can Go Active Duty or Join the Reserve; Language Enlistees Must Sign A Four-Year Active Duty Enlistment Contract.
- Language Enlistees Are Eligible for More Than Eighty Army Jobs; HCPs Will Be Recruited for Specific Specialties.
- Citizenship Can Be Revoked If a MAVNI Enlistee Fails to Complete His or Her Enlistment.
- The Army has established a special website for non-citizens who are interested in finding out more about the MAVNI pilot program. The link is: http://www.goarmy.com/info/mavni.
Immigrants have of course made significant contributions to the defense of the U.S. in the past. See http://tinyurl.com/3rbuj4c:
- More than 20 percent of the recipients of the Congressional Medal of Honor in U.S. wars were immigrants.
- 500,000 immigrants fought in the Union Army during the Civil War.
- A special regimental combat team comprised of sons of Japanese immigrants was the most decorated of its size during World War II.
- Major U.S. weapons, such as a more advance ironclad ship, the submarine, and the atomic and hydrogen bombs were developed by immigrants.
- After the passage of section 329 of the Immigration and Nationality Act, 143,000 noncitizen military participants in World War II and 31,000 members of the U.S. military who fought during the Korean War became naturalized U.S. citizens.
In 2006, the Senate Armed Services Committee held a field hearing devoted entirely to the role of immigrants in the military. Dr. David S. C. Chu, the Undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, testified at the hearing that immigrants are “a vital part of this country’s military” and provide “the Services with a richly diverse force in terms of race/ethnicity, language, and culture.” In addition, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Peter Pace, testified in the hearing that more than 8,000 immigrants were joining the armed forces each year and that nearly 200 of them had won significant awards in combat since September 11.
In addition, as to military naturalization, from September 2001 to March 2009, approximately 47,000 noncitizen members of the U.S. military became naturalized U.S. citizens. Please refer to the July 2010 GAO Report entitled, “Military Naturalizations: USCIS Generally Met Mandated Processing, but Processing Applicants Deployed Overseas Is a Challenge. http://www.gao.gov/mobile/products/GAO-10-865
At times when we continue to see anti-immigrant legislation proliferate tied to national security concerns, we should be mindful of our history on the subject of immigrants protecting and serving our country.