Washington—Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, agreed to cosponsor an amendment today introduced by Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Senator Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to retain military personnel in the Military Accessions Vital to National Interest (MAVNI) program until their background screenings are completed. Because of a backlog in the screening process, it is estimated that between 1,000 and 1,800 MAVNI recruits have lost their legal immigration status while awaiting their results.
The MAVNI program allows immigrants with skills deemed vital to the national interest to enlist in the Armed Forces. More than 800 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients with these critical skills have joined the military through MAVNI.
This amendment is also cosponsored by Senators Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), and Mark Warner (D-Va.). The amendment requires MAVNI recruits to remain in the Armed Forces until the completion of background checks and security screenings, regardless of how long the screenings take. Under current law, recruits are automatically separated from the Armed Forces at 730 days if they have not yet completed basic training—which no MAVNI recruit can do until they pass the extensive security screening.
If these recruits are separated from the military because of delays or potential cuts to the program, they face the threat of deportation, as well as possible persecution from many of their home countries for joining the military and swearing allegiance to the United States.