Program to allow DACA recipients to join the military is put on hold

Last month, the Department of Defense announced some undocumented young immigrants who grew up in the United States would be allowed to enlist in the…

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Program to allow DACA recipients to join the military is put on hold

DACA recipients learned last month that they would be able to join the military through an existing program for immigrants who want to enlist. But that program is now on hold. (Photo Credit: Him Ranjit)

Last month, the Department of Defense announced some undocumented young immigrants who grew up in the United States would be allowed to enlist in the military under an already existing military enlistment program for immigrants with specialized skills.

But that program has now been put on hold.

Army officials told Politico on Thursday that the program, dubbed Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest, has been suspended while screening procedures for immigrants who want to enlist are finalized.

The MAVNI program allows 1,500 immigrants with visas to enlist every year and makes them eligible for an expedited path to citizenship. To qualify, applicants must also have distinctive medical or language skills.

SEE ALSO: New DOD policy will allow some Dreamers to join the military

The DOD expanded the program last month to benefit undocumented youth who’ve been approved for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which allows them to get work permits and protects them from deportation. Immigration advocates applauded the decision but were quick to point out that only a few DACA recipients would meet the requirements to join the military through the MAVNI program.

Politico reported that as of earlier this month, no new applications have been accepted for the program as the military sorts out how DACA recipients will be screened before they can enlist through the MAVNI program.

“It’s a major bureaucratic screw-up by the Obama administration,” Margaret Stock, a retired lieutenant colonel in the Army Reserve who first came up with the MAVNI program, told Politico.

Last week, a petition urging Defense Secretary Chuck Hagal to reopen the MAVNI program was posted on the White House website. According to Politico, the petition was posted by Vaneet Goyal, a 23-year-old immigrant from India who graduated in May with a master’s degree in industrial engineering and wants to join the military.

“We are asking Secretary Hagel to order his subordinates to allow enlistments to commence immediately, rather than delaying them while coordination is done to allow DACAs to enlist,” the petition reads.

An Army spokesperson told Politico the MAVNI program is expected to reopen by late November for immigrants who would have qualified for it before it was announced that DACA recipients would also qualify. However, it’s still not clear when DACA recipients will be able to apply.

SEE ALSO: Democrats introduce resolution to allow Dreamers to join the military