Pentagon Reportedly Considering Termination the MAVNI Program

Written by Alexander J. Segal on

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On July 3, 2017, NPR reported that the Pentagon is considering dismantling the Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest (MAVNI) program, which was originally established in 2009 [link].1

NPR's reporting is based on an internal memo from Pentagon officials written for the Secretary of Defense, James Mattis. NPR describes the memo as noting the following concerns in supporting its recommendation that the MAVNI program be terminated:

  • Inadequate vetting of recruits under MAVNI;
  • Risk that recruits have connections to foreign intelligence services; and
  • “Elevated” risk of an insider threat.

MAVNI

According to NPR's reporting, the internal memo states that there are nearly 10,000 individuals in the MAVNI program. The memo divides these individuals into four groups, with each group reflecting a different potential security risk. NPR adds that some individuals in MAVNI who are already serving in the military have been flagged for enhanced security screening. Others, who have not yet undergone basic training, “would be separated from the military or have their enlistment contracts canceled.” NPR suggests that approximately 1,000 of the recruits who are awaiting naturalization could face potential immigration consequences were their enlistments to be canceled due to the fact that their visas have expired.

As we discussed in an earlier post, the MAVNI program was initially suspended in the summer of 2016 [see blog]. The suspension was prompted by the discovery that numerous individuals recruited under MAVNI had offered false educational credentials when seeking benefits. The memo reportedly suggests that the ensuing security review has proven to be taxing on the Pentagon's resources, especially those of the U.S. Army.

On June 16, 2017, the MAVNI Center posted a clip from a United States Army Reserve Command town hall meeting. We have embedded the video below for your convenience:

In the clip, Major General Jeffery J. Snow restated that MAVNI remains suspended, something that he described as being “unfortunate.” He acknowledged that he was “sensitive about the fact” that there are approximately 1,800 future soldiers in the future soldier training pool who are affected by the MAVNI suspension. He added that many more soldiers have already undergone training but, due to the security review, they “have actually not been able to go to their first unit assignment.”

Major General Snow explained that the Army is currently prioritizing the process for those soldiers who “are actually in the training base to complete their additional security screening before they actually go to their first assignment.” He added that the implication of this is that those who are currently still in the future training pool are “unfortunately … going to be there a little bit longer.”

Major General Snow stated that he wished the situation were different and that the Reserve Command is continuing to track the situation. However, he added that decisions relating to the future of the MAVNI program and those affected by its suspension are made at a higher level, and that Reserve Command is waiting for more information like everyone else. He promised that the Reserve Command would provide updates on the situation when information becomes available.

MAVNI has been a valuable program for thousands of individuals here in the United States illegally. It allows many of these individuals to earn legal status in the United States in return for military service. We are certainly not privy to all of the security and resource allocation issues that appear to concern the Pentagon, and we acknowledge that those issues may weigh against continuing the MAVNI program in the long run, no matter how unfortunate that would be for many individuals who would otherwise serve in the military in return for the promise of a path to citizenship.

However, notwithstanding the ultimate fate of MAVNI, the individuals who signed up with the assumption that their service would lead to legal status must be accounted for. While certain individuals may have misrepresented facts in their applications or otherwise may present bona fide security risks, many others followed the proper rules and procedures. Those in the latter group should not be left out to dry if the Pentagon ultimately terminates MAVNI. Congress should take an interest in the situation if the Pentagon ultimately fails to account for these individuals en masse.

We will update the site with more information on MAVNI as it becomes available. Individuals with questions should consult with an experienced immigration attorney for up-to-date information. To learn about citizenship and naturalization in general, please see the relevant section of our website [see category].

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  1. Gonzales, Richard and Tom Bowman. “Pentagon Considers Canceling Program That Recruits Immigrant Soldiers.” NPR. NPR.com. July 3, 2017.