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DoD looking to expand military enlistment polices for immigrants

The House of Representatives passing its annual national defense bill typically doesn't generate significant headlines, but this year has proven to be something of an exception. That's because this year's bill, which was passed just yesterday, purposely omitted a proposal that would have enabled undocumented immigrants brought to the country as children to serve in the U.S. military.

While this move was understandably decried by many immigration advocacy groups, it's important to understand that both the White House and the Pentagon are actively examining existing military enlistment polices that deal squarely with the topic of immigration.

In general, the armed forces accept roughly 5,000 non-citizen applicants per year, meaning those with lawful permanent resident status or in possession of a legal visa. However, the Pentagon is now considering ways to increase these numbers and, more importantly, these opportunities for immigrants.

"The department does not question their patriotism. They have lived, died, fought, bled, wept for our country," said a high-ranking DoD official during testimony in a congressional hearing a few weeks back. "Noncitizen recruits continue to provide the services with a diverse force in terms of ... race, language and culture."

Two of the military enlistment polices under review by the Pentagon include:

Expanding the "parole in place" policy: Currently, the Navy and Marine Corps will not consider recruiting individuals who are married to undocumented immigrants living here in the U.S. The rationale is that the complete background check and security review otherwise mandated for each recruit cannot be performed with a spouse lacking the necessary legal status.

The Pentagon is now working with federal immigration officials to see if the "parole in place" policy, which prevents the deportation of military dependents and is otherwise applicable to active-duty personnel could be expanded to cover these recruits.

The rationale here is that expanding the program would grant eligible recruits with undocumented spouses the ability to enlist since their significant others would be granted temporary legal immigration status.

Expanding the MAVNI program: In 2012, the Pentagon launched the Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest program, which targets those immigrants who possess much sought-after skills (i.e., medical degrees, language skills, etc.) for enlistment -- regardless of their legal status.

Currently, the Pentagon is considering whether to expand the MAVNI program.

"We think it's very important to take a look at the MAVNI program that was established a while ago and see what that 'vital to national interest' means," said the aforementioned high-ranking DoD official.

Stay tuned for updates on this evolving story ...

If you would like to learn more about citizenship, family immigration, deportation defense or other important immigration issues, consider speaking with an experienced attorney who can answer your questions, explain your rights and guide you through the process.

Source: The Military Times, "Defense bill blocks effort to recruit more immigrants," Andrew Tilghman, May 22, 2014

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