News reporting by some media outlets has proven once again, that without doing actual research, especially when it comes to immigrants, will be incorrect but will be taken as fact by uninformed readers.
As in this case, the Associated Press (AP) report that the U.S. Army is purging military immigrants turns out to be not entirely accurate.
The AP reported that some immigrant U.S. Army reservists and recruits who enlisted in the military with a promised path to citizenship are being abruptly discharged.
Shortly after the AP story, Task & Purpose, a site launched in 2014 to provide authentic and unfiltered perspectives on military and veterans issues in the post-9/11 era, reported that the Department of Defense is strongly disputing AP’s report and the Pentagon insists that the numbers reflect nothing unusual.
Titled “US Army quietly discharging immigrant recruits,” the AP story reports that “some immigrant U.S. Army reservists and recruits who enlisted in the military with a promised path to citizenship are being abruptly discharged.” The story implies that institutionalized xenophobia might be behind the recent spike in the number of MAVNI recruits being “booted” from the program.
But while the AP did report accurately that many recruits have been cut from the program in recent months, the Pentagon insists that the numbers reflect nothing unusual. Indeed, two Army recruiters who spoke to Task & Purpose on the condition of anonymity rejected the notion that the military was deliberately and purposefully ridding itself of non-U.S. citizens —as did a Nigerian immigrant who has been enrolled in the MAVNI program for more than two years. “I think the journalist just didn’t understand how MAVNI works,” she opined.
One of the recruiters put it more bluntly. “The MAVNI situation is f*cked up and screwing these kids over,” he said. “But that article is bullsh*t.”
More than 10,000 non-U.S. citizens were accepted into the MAVNI program before it was halted in September 2017, but the Pentagon could not say when reached by Task & Purpose on Friday how many of those recruits actually entered the military. Recruits can be dropped from the program for myriad reasons, such as poor physical health or a failure to clear mandatory background checks.
All military applicants must undergo background checks. According to Air Force Maj. Carla Gleason, a Pentagon spokeswoman, roughly 1,100 are still waiting to begin basic training pending the completion of background investigations, including one conducted by the National Background Investigations Bureau.
But these background checks are not uniform processes. For an 18-year-old enlisting straight out of high school in, say, Kentucky, the process can be fairly quick for logistical reasons, like the ease of contacting a recruit’s family, readily accessible information about past residences, relationships with dubious figures, and so on.
By contrast, the typical MAVNI recruit has a much more complex life story. Many hail from countries like Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Nigeria, where terror groups are highly active and poor government record-keeping can make it exceedingly difficult for investigators to determine whether the recruit poses a security threat.
“Because MAVNI recruits are foreign nationals who are not permanent residents of the United States, the security screening required for these individuals can be difficult and time consuming due to limitations in the Department’s ability to verify information in the individual’s home country,” Gleason said.
While the AP stated in its July 5 article that some immigrant Army were “abruptly discharged,” Gleason was adamant that the protocols for vetting foreign-born military applicants have remained unchanged since MAVNI ended last year. Indeed, one Pentagon source told Task & Purpose that those recruits who were recently discharged were either among the last to join MAVNI or required the most extensive background checks. Another source said the military is taking extra precautions after a handful of MAVNI recruits had been let into the ranks only to be discharged later when investigators discovered red flags.
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