Menendez, Booker Join Colleagues in Introducing Amendment to Keep Non-Citizen Military Personnel From Discharge Due To Immigration Status

Menendez, Booker Join Colleagues in Introducing Amendment to Keep Non-Citizen Military Personnel From Discharge Due To Immigration Status

   

WASHINGTON—U.S. Senators Bob Menendez and Cory Booker (both D-NJ) joined Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) and U.S. Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) in filing an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to retain military personnel in the Military Accessions Vital to National Interest (MAVNI) program until their background screenings are completed. Because of a backlog in the screening process, it is estimated that between 1,000 and 1,800 MAVNI recruits have lost their legal immigration status while awaiting their results.

 “Commonsense programs like MAVNI allow brave and uniquely qualified young men and women to wear the American uniform and honor us with their service more than we could ever honor them,” said Senator Menendez. “The very least we should do is show our gratitude for their courageous service by protecting their immigration status as we make certain that our nation fields the most qualified troops regardless of birthplace. In the era of mass deportations and anti-immigrant rhetoric, we must continue to recognize and do right by the many immigrants who continue to protect, enrich and advance our nation in every aspect of American life.”

 "If you’ve volunteered to put your life on the line in our military to defend America and keep our country safe, you deserve our country's gratitude, not deportation,” Booker said. “We need to stand up as a country for those who have stood up for us.”

The MAVNI program allows immigrants with skills deemed vital to the national interest to enlist in the Armed Forces. More than 800 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients with these critical skills have joined the military through MAVNI.

Joining Senators Menendez and Booker in cosponsoring this amendment were U.S. Senators Michael Bennet (D-CO), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), and Mark Warner (D-VA). The amendment requires MAVNI recruits to remain in the Armed Forces until the completion of background checks and security screenings, regardless of how long the screenings take. Under current law, recruits are automatically separated from the Armed Forces at 730 days if they have not yet completed basic training—– which no MAVNI recruit can do until they pass the extensive security screening.

If these recruits are separated from the military because of delays or potential cuts to the program, they face the threat of deportation, as well as possible persecution from many of their home countries for joining the military and swearing allegiance to the United States.

###