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Noncitizens Recruited For An Army Program Are At Risk For Deportation

Jun 12, 2018
Originally published on June 14, 2018 6:07 pm
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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

We're going to hear now about a U.S. military recruitment program. It is for noncitizens, and it's designed to take advantage of professional and language skills that the Pentagon might need - everything from Arabic to Uzbek and also including Chinese. But hundreds who signed up for this program are now exposed to the risk of deportation, including one Chinese recruit who was arrested in New Jersey last week. NPR's Quil Lawrence reports that the recruit fears reprisals from the Chinese government if he is deported.

QUIL LAWRENCE, BYLINE: Immigrants have served in the U.S. military since the Revolutionary War. More recently, the Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest program, or MAVNI, was a way for the Army to specifically seek out language skills and recruit people like Shu Luo, a Chinese citizen who graduated from George Washington University with a degree in data analytics.

MARGARET STOCK: He loves America. He wanted to serve in America. He doesn't want to go back to China. He got an education here. He really appreciates this country. And he was very excited about being in the Army and using his tech skills to help the Army.

LAWRENCE: Margaret Stock is Lugo's immigration lawyer. She's also a former Army lieutenant colonel who was involved in creating the MAVNI program. She says in 2016, the Defense Department put new, stricter background checks on immigrants. But that increased vetting takes so long that hundreds of recruits, like Luo, who had enlisted but not yet shipped out to boot camp were going to run out of time on their visas before the vetting was done. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said earlier this year that he'd been assured by the Department of Homeland Security that it would not deport MAVNI recruits. Hundreds were given an extension of their status. But according to sworn statements by Luo's recruiting officers, he was left out of that extension by mistake. Stock says if he's deported back to China, he's in danger.

STOCK: He's in the military. I mean, he signed an oath to the United States, the standard enlistment oath, and that's an expression of a pro-American political opinion for which he would be persecuted if he went back to China. I'm sure he would be arrested, probably, at the very least.

LAWRENCE: Luo was married to another Chinese graduate student. They have a young daughter who's an American citizen. The Department of Homeland Security told NPR that Luo was arrested when he reported to a DHS office last week, then released. He's due to report back to Homeland Security next month.

Quil Lawrence, NPR News.

[POST-BROADCAST CORRECTION: This story incorrectly says Shu Luohas has a degree in data analytics. His degree is in statistics. The story also incorrectly says he has a young daughter. He has a son.]

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