Congressman Bill Pascrell

Representing the 9th District of NEW JERSEY

Rep. Pascrell Seeks Answers on Immigrant Military Recruitment Program Pause

Jun 29, 2017
Press Release
Letter asks Departments of Homeland Security and Defense to provide interim relief for immigrants stuck in limbo while program is under review

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Representative Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-NJ) sent a letter today to the Department of Homeland Security and Department of Defense regarding immigrant soldiers and delays in their path to citizenship. The letter expresses concerns with the impact that recent changes to the Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest (MAVNI) program has had on immigrant military recruits. Rep. Pascrell urges the departments to work expeditiously to resume the program and ensure that recruits do not face any issues renewing their temporary visas or adjusting their immigration status.

"As you know, the MAVNI program is available to immigrants living in the U.S. legally in order to recruit individuals who hold critical skills, such as doctors, nurses, and experts in certain languages to serve in the military. In exchange for their service, these individuals receive an expedited path to citizenship. As non-citizens who wish to wear our nation’s uniform and serve under our nation’s flag, these recruits represent the type of devotion we should extol," Rep. Pascrell wrote in the letter. "The memo issued by the Department of Defense (DOD) on the MAVNI program on September 30, 2016 established a policy that has left many individuals’ military careers, citizenship applications, and legal status in limbo."

As was detailed in a story by the Record, immigrants such as Se Hoon Kim, from South Korea, "are now stuck – unable to fully serve their adopted country -- because of a new directive requiring additional security checks… At the same time, a hold has been placed on U.S. citizenship applications submitted by these recruits, causing some to lose their legal status to remain in this country." (link to story)

"While the program is under review, I urge you to provide all MAVNI recruits with interim relief to ensure they will not face any issues renewing visas or adjusting their immigration status. Further, I urge you to do everything possible to expedite MAVNI security checks to allow these recruits to know if they will be allowed to serve in our military or move on with their lives," he wrote.

Text of the letter below (link to PDF):

June 29, 2017

The Honorable John Kelly
Secretary of Homeland Security
Department of Homeland Security
245 Murray Lane SW
Washington, DC 20528-0075

The Honorable Peter Levine
Acting Under Secretary
Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness
4000 Defense Pentagon
Washington, D.C. 20301

Dear Secretary Kelly and Acting Under Secretary Levine,

I write to express concerns about the implications of recent changes to the Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest (MAVNI) program and the impact it has had on one of my constituents. I urge you to act swiftly to address issues that have left in limbo the immigration status for legal non-citizens who have taken the steps to join our military.

As you know, the MAVNI program is available to immigrants living in the U.S. legally in order to recruit individuals who hold critical skills, such as doctors, nurses, and experts in certain languages to serve in the military. In exchange for their service, these individuals receive an expedited path to citizenship. As non-citizens who wish to wear our nation’s uniform and serve under our nation’s flag, these recruits represent the type of devotion we should extol.

The memo issued by the Department of Defense (DOD) on the MAVNI program on September 30, 2016 established a policy that has left many individuals’ military careers, citizenship applications, and legal status in limbo. As you know, under this new policy MAVNI recruits are unable to leave the country until they complete combat training, which they are unable to receive because their security checks have not been completed. Additionally, MAVNI recruits are unclear about the future of their citizenship applications and some are here on temporary visas that are set to expire. This is especially problematic because in order to renew some of these visas, applicants must declare their intention to leave the United States when the temporary visa expires – an impossible declaration for MAVNI recruits who have already taken steps to live in our country by enlisting and applying for citizenship.

I understand that these changes were made due to security concerns with the MAVNI program. It is critical that everyone serving in the United States military is fully vetted; and the DOD, the Department of Homeland Security, and other government agencies should ensure that this occurs. However, these changes completely halted the program’s ability to process applications for security screenings and citizenship, leaving the applicants in limbo.

While the program is under review, I urge you to provide all MAVNI recruits with interim relief to ensure they will not face any issues renewing visas or adjusting their immigration status. Further, I urge you to do everything possible to expedite MAVNI security checks to allow these recruits to know if they will be allowed to serve in our military or move on with their lives.

Thank you in advance for your attention to this request. I look forward to your response.

Sincerely,

Bill Pascrell, Jr.
Member of Congress

CC: Secretary of State Rex Tillerson