A national defense program aimed at recruiting service members from countries besides the United States is soon coming to an end due to growing candidate vetting problems in recent years, according to the Department of Defense.
Hundreds of thousands of immigrants have become U.S. citizens after joining the U.S. military. From 2009 to date more than 82,000 immigrants alone have become U.S. citizens while serving the country.
In 2009 the U.S. military began a pilot program called Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest, or MAVNI.
“It was intended to bring non-U.S. citizens, those with those special skills, into the force to help augment our military,” DOD spokesperson Major Carla Gleason said.
The military was looking primarily for people with specific language skills. Korean, Chinese Mandarin and Russian came in the top ten, according to the latest list provided to NBC 7 by the Department of Defense.
In September 2016 the DOD told NBC 7 the MAVNI Pilot Program was not renewed, butNBC7 later received a memo from the DOD that said it was extended with tight restrictions due to national security concerns.
“When we realized we were facing a lot of unacceptable national security risks, like counter intelligence and espionage, we decided to discontinue the program,” Major Gleason said.
Some specific problems outlined by the DOD to included recruits entering the program using fraudulent visas from universities that did not exist and falsified transcripts from countries with state-run universities.
The DOD told of one recruit who entered the U.S on a student visa and professed support for 9/11 terrorists and said he would voluntarily help China in a crisis situation.
Critics say this change reflects the Trump Administration's tough immigration policies, citing similarities between recruit countries and countries impacted by the administration’s travel ban.
There is also concern about what will happen to recruits still going through the program before it fully ends.
The DOD emphasized MAVNI was not an immigration program, but a national security program. The military is still recruiting immigrants with green cards who qualify to join the U.S. military.