The U.S. Army has temporarily suspended the practice of abruptly discharging immigrant recruits, the Associated Press reports.
In a memo the AP received, dated July 20, Army officials were ordered to immediately stop processing the discharges of those in the special immigrant program, MAVNI. This program has its beginnings in the aftermath of 9/11, when George W. Bush offered “expedited naturalization” for immigrant recruits and reserves.
The memo signed by Acting Assistant Secretary of the Army for Manpower and Reserve Affairs Marshall Williams reads, “Effective immediately, you will suspend processing of all involuntary separation actions,” according to the AP.
In early July, reports had emerged of immigrants suddenly receiving discharges with no notice and little explanation. Some were told they were a security risk due to family members abroad, or the proper background checks couldn’t be completed. Whatever the reasoning, the discharges put the legal status of individuals at risk, leading some to fear deportation.
The memo obtained by the Associated Press shows there was a policy in place to target recruits in the MAVNI program, said Margaret Stock, an immigrant attorney and former Army Reserve lieutenant colonel.
“It’s an admission by the Army that they’ve improperly discharged hundreds of soldiers,” she told AP. “The next step should be go back and rescind the people who were improperly discharged.”
Only one soldier, Brazilian reservist Lucas Calixto, is known to have had a discharge reversed. Calixto took the Army to court and had his discharge reversed in mid-July, AP reports. Recruits and reservists contacted by AP on Wednesday said their discharges were still in place as far as they new.