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Sen. Warner urges Defense Department not to rescind contracts for foreign-born military recruits

U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, today urged the Pentagon not to rescind enlistment contracts for 1,800 foreign-born military recruits who have signed up to serve our country as part of the Military Accessions Vital to National Interest (MAVNI) program.

mark warnerThe MAVNI program allows foreign-born recruits with urgently needed special skills—such as medical training or fluency in a foreign language— an expedited pathway to American citizenship in exchange for service in the armed forces. Press reports indicate that the Defense Department is considering canceling enlistment contracts for up to 1,800 of these immigrants, a number that includes 68 Army recruits in Virginia.

“Military recruits in the MAVNI program should not have to wonder whether the United States will honor the contract they signed. If we fail to uphold the contracts we have made with MAVNI applicants, this will not only have a significantly deleterious effect on recruiting, it will also be met with a strong, swift Congressional reaction,” wrote Sen. Warner in a letter to Secretary of Defense James Mattis.

The MAVNI program began as a pilot in 2009 as a means to increase language and cultural readiness and fill in-demand positions within the military services. It allows visa holders, asylees and refugees to bypass the green card process to become U.S. citizens if they possess unique, in-demand abilities otherwise in short supply, such as medical expertise or fluency in a foreign language like Mandarin Chinese or Pashto. (A full list of MAVNI eligible languages is available here.)

In addition to possessing specialized skills, MAVNI applicants must have and maintain legal immigration status or be awaiting status under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, and must clear a thorough background check before receiving orders to report for basic training. To be eligible, healthcare professionals must commit to at least three years of active duty, or six years in the reserve, and those with foreign language skills must enlist for at least four years of active duty.

The MAVNI program has been so successful – recruiting nearly 11,000 individuals into military service since its creation – that the Department of Defense extended it just last year.

“As you consider a sustainable future for the MAVNI program, I strongly urge you not to take any action that harms military recruiting efforts or the readiness of our armed forces,” added Warner.