Immigrant enlistees into the Army’s active duty and reserve units, promised a path to citizenship in exchange for military service, are being discharged from the service’s ranks.
Roughly 40 U.S. soldiers have been quietly discharged from the Army due to their immigrant status, the Associated Press reported Thursday night. Potentially more have been involuntarily separated from the ground service, but Army and Pentagon officials declined to provide additional details on those discharges, due to pending litigation against the service by those being removed, the AP reports.
The existing Army program, known as the Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest program or MAVNI was initiated under the George W. Bush administration.
Under the program, immigrants seeking to enlist in the Army must be in the U.S. legally before being considered for military service. President Barack Obama extended the program to allow young immigrants who entered the U.S. illegally under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or DACA policy to participate.
Over 5,000 recruits enlisted into the Army in 2016 alone, under the program with over 10,000 currently in uniform in the Army and other service branches. Immigrant enlistees are eligible to become naturalized U.S. citizens upon completion of basic training. Over 110,000 U.S. service members have joined the military since Sept. 11, 2001.
The Army declined to comment on whether the involuntary discharges were part of a wholesale change to the Army enlistment program.
The move comes days after the Pentagon agreed to begin work at two U.S. military bases to house upwards of 20,000 unaccompanied migrant children. Fort Bliss and and Goodfellow Air Force Base have been pegged to house the children, at the request by officials at the Department of Health and Human Services. On Monday, Pentagon spokesman Col. Rob Manning said military officials were also considering several additional military installations to assist HHS efforts.
Roughly 2,500 children have been under the care of the Department of Homeland Security after being forcibly separated from their parents at the U.S. southern border, as part of the Trump White House’s zero tolerance immigration policy. On Wednesday, Mr. Trump signed an executive order ending the separations of migrant parents and children, amid growing pressure both at home and abroad to abandon the policy.