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As recently reported by USA Today – A new U.S. Department of Defense policy known as Military Accessions in the National Interest (or MAVNI), will allow a small number of undocumented immigrants an opportunity to join the military. If successful, this would be the first time in decades that non-U.S. citizens were allowed to serve. The new Pentagon policy may be the first phase of a broader government-wide effort to create new government streams to citizenship.
Capped at 1,500 recruits per year, the program will be open to immigrants without a proper U.S. visa. The new rules will expand an existing program allowing recruiters to target foreign nationals with high-demand skills, mainly specialized health care training or foreign language skills.
Officials say it’s unclear how many of those might be unlawful DACA status immigrants as opposed to others who are also eligible for military service under MAVNI, including those with legal, nonpermanent visas such as students or tourists. Pentagon officials don’t know how many of those immigrants have actually learned their ancestral language to the proficiency required by the military.
“We’re just not sure how many within that existing population of DACA would have the linguistic skills to qualify,” said one defense official familiar with the policy change. “These are kids who entered the country at a fairly young age and have basically grown up in the United States, so the limit of their language talents would probably be the language that they received at home.”
The MAVNI program began in 2008 and remains a pilot program. The Pentagon notified Congress that the program, which was due to expire at the end of this fiscal year, will be extended for another two years and will for the first time include DACA-status immigrants.
The military services are not required to accept recruits under MAVNI. In recent years, the Army has been the only service to accept a significant number of recruits under the program. The Air Force has accepted only a few and the Navy and Marine Corps have not sought MAVNI recruits in recent years.
We will report more on this and other related immigration stories as the information becomes available.
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