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McCollum Offers Amendment to Honor Commitments to Military Recruits

June 28, 2017
Press Release

With the Department of Defense considering a plan that could expose as many as 1,000 foreign-born American military recruits to deportation, Congresswoman Betty McCollum (DFL-Minn.) will offer an amendment during tomorrow’s House Appropriations Committee markup to ensure the Pentagon upholds contracts with foreign nationals who have signed up to serve the United States.

On Monday, the Washington Post reported that “the Pentagon is considering a plan to cancel enlistment contracts for 1,000 foreign-born recruits without legal immigration status, knowingly exposing them to deportation.” About 1,800 foreign-born recruits have signed enlistment contracts under Military Accessions Vital to National Interest (MAVNI) but are still awaiting orders for basic training. An additional 2,400 are reservists who likewise have not yet completed basic training. Out of these approximately 4,200 recruits, at least 1,000 have been waiting so long to be given orders for basic training that their visas have expired. If their contracts are eliminated now, they would be put at immediate risk of deportation.

“The United States has a moral and legal obligation to people who have signed contracts to serve our nation in the military,” Congresswoman McCollum said. “For the Department of Defense to even consider terminating these contracts is a betrayal of people with unique skills who want to serve our country. My amendment is a first step to holding the Pentagon accountable on its commitments to foreign nationals who want to fill critical military roles.”

McCollum’s amendment to the fiscal year 2018 defense appropriations bill stops the Department of Defense from reneging on its commitment to foreign-born recruits in the MAVNI program. It formally prevents the Department of Defense from using any federal funds to eliminate existing enlistment contracts for recruits in the MAVNI program, except in cases where the recruit has violated the Uniform Code of Military Justice or otherwise made himself or herself ineligible to serve in the military. In addition to fulfilling our country’s moral obligations, the McCollum Amendment helps meet the military’s critical needs and protects taxpayer dollars by avoiding the payment of large sums to meet the same critical needs filled by these foreign nationals.

MAVNI is a military program that enlists foreign nationals who have certain essential medical and language skills to fill critical gaps in the military. The program was created by Secretary Robert M. Gates during the Bush administration. Since 2009, more than 10,000 service members have participated in MAVNI and filled critical roles in medical and language-centric positions that the military would otherwise have been unable to meet. Under MAVNI, foreign nationals who are not permanent residents may enlist after demonstrating they have certain essential skills. After passing an extensive background check, medical recruits commit to serve three years of active duty service (or six years of reserve service) and language and cultural recruits commit to four years of active duty service. Recruits typically become naturalized citizens after completing basic training.