According to the AP News, multiple immigrants who recently enlisted in the U.S. Army after being promised a path to citizenship by recruiters are now being abruptly discharged, many without warning or explanation. Immigration attorneys are saying they currently know of more than 40 service members who have been discharged or whose status has become questionable, putting their futures in jeopardy and betraying their trust.
The service members affected by the recent discharges were all recruited under a special program designed to enlist medical specialists and fluent speakers of 44 much needed languages to “recognize their contribution and sacrifice,” according to the Department of Defense. In a statement regarding the discharges, the DOD stated, “All service members (i.e. contracted recruits, active duty, Guard and Reserve) and those with an honorable discharge are protected from deportation.”
However, immigration attorneys told the AP that the discharged immigrants had their contracts canceled and their files noted as an “uncharacterized discharge,” which is neither dishonorable nor honorable.
According to Time, Alaska-based immigration attorney Margaret Stock confirmed this factor, saying while all of those booted thus far had signed enlistment contracts and taken an Army oath, none had yet entered boot camp and earned their honorable service designation. The lack of designation means they cannot become naturalized citizens, leaving them in limbo and in danger of deportation.
Stock, a retired Army Reserve lieutenant colonel who helped create the immigrant recruitment program, says she’s been receiving dozens of calls from the affected service-members who found their contracts canceled. Some were in a delayed entry program, while others were reservists who had already been receiving pay, undergoing training, and attending unit drills.
The individuals were informed simply that the Defense Department had “not managed to put them through extensive background checks,” says Stock, so by default, they did not meet background check requirements. She calls it a vicious cycle, saying,
“Immigrants have been serving in the Army since 1775. We wouldn’t have won the revolution without immigrants. And we’re not going to win the global war on terrorism today without immigrants.”
Reservist Lucas Calixto is a Brazilian immigrant who came to the U.S. when he was 12, and lives in Massachusetts. He had just been promoted to private second class when he learned he was being kicked out. Calixto, 28, says he doesn’t understand why he’s being discharged, and the great feeling he had when he enlisted is going down the drain.
“It was my dream to serve in the military. 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.”
Calixto’s dream is now dashed, and he filed a lawsuit against the Army last week.