ARMY EXPULSION. This November 2017 photo provided by
Badamsereejid Gansukh shows him in front of a U.S. military
recruiting office in New Yorkís Times Square. Gansukh, whose
recruiter told him his Turkish language skills would be an asset
to the military, said he didnít know he was discharged until he
asked his congressmanís office to help him figure out why his
security screening was taking so long. (Photo courtesy of
From The Asian Reporter, V28, #20 (October 15, 2018),
Army expelled 500 immigrant recruits in one
By Martha Mendoza and Garance Burke
The Associated Press
Over the course of 12 months, the U.S. Army discharged more
than 500 immigrant enlistees who were recruited across the globe
for their language or medical skills and promised a fast track
to citizenship in exchange for their service, The Associated
Press has found.
The decade-old Military Accessions Vital to the National
Interest (MAVNI) recruiting program was put on hold in 2016 amid
concerns that immigrant recruits were not being screened
sufficiently. The Army began booting out those enlistees last
year without explanation.
The AP has interviewed more than a dozen recruits from
countries such as Pakistan, Iran, China, Mongolia, and Brazil,
who all said they were devastated by their unexpected discharges
or cancelled contracts.
Until now, itís been unclear how many were discharged and for
what reason because the Army has refused to discuss specific
cases. But the Armyís own list, submitted to the U.S. District
Court for the District of Columbia, says 502 service members who
enlisted under MAVNI were discharged between July 2017 and July
The list, which was unsealed after a request from The AP,
offers "refuse to enlist" as the reason for expelling two-thirds
of the recruits. That is the reason given for 35 percent of
enlistee discharges Army-wide, according to a research study
posted on a Defense Department website.
But at least one recruit whose paperwork said he was being
discharged from the program for that reason said it was not
Badamsereejid Gansukh, whose recruiter told him his Turkish
language skills would be an asset to the military, said he
didnít know he was discharged at all until he asked his
congressmanís office this summer to help him figure out why his
security screening was taking so long.
"I never said I refuse to enlist, not at all," Gansukh said.
In fact, he said, he had opted in for another year after getting
a call from his recruiter.
Upon learning he was discharged, "I just broke down," the
Minnesota State University graduate said.
The Defense Department said it would not comment on
Twenty-two percent of the discharged immigrants were told
their entry-level performance and conduct were subpar, which
Pentagon spokeswoman Carla Gleason said could include being
injured. Ten percent ó or 48 service members ó were listed as
being discharged because of an unfavorable security screening.
This can include having family members in another country ó
which is typical for immigrants ó or the military not completing
all of the screenings in a reasonable period.
There were three discharges for apathy or personal problems,
two for having an encounter with police after enlisting, one due
to pregnancy and another citing education, which could indicate
a university opportunity.
Two "declined to ship" to boot camp, the list said, and two
enlistees were discharged with the explanation "unknown," which
the Defense Department said it could not explain.
The names of the service members and other personal
information were redacted from the list to protect their
All the enlistees had committed to active duty or reserves;
many had been regularly drilling and training with their
recruiters in preparation for boot camp while awaiting security
If a recruit hasnít started active duty, the U.S. Army and
Army National Guard have "the authority to separate the
individual and terminate the contract, whether at the
applicantís request or at the governmentís convenience," Army
spokeswoman Jessica Maxwell said in a statement.
Margaret Stock, an immigration and national security law
expert who helped create the MAVNI program, said the Army is not
giving enlistees their legal right to appeal.
"They are trying to get rid of people," she said.
Eligible recruits are required to have legal status in the
U.S., such as a student visa, before enlisting. More than 5,000
immigrants were recruited into the program in 2016, and an
estimated 10,000 are currently serving. The vast majority go
into the Army, but some also go to the other military branches.
Gansukh, a first-generation immigrant from Mongolia, said he
had hoped to be a part of something larger when he enlisted, and
believed his service would be an honorable way to seek
citizenship in his new country.
"Now I feel like I was really targeted in a way," he said. "I
feel isolated from the rest of the people who are living here."
Other recruits discharged this year amid stalled security
screenings were equally devastated.
"Itís just like youíre dropped from heaven to hell," Panshu
Zhao said earlier this summer after learning he was getting
kicked out. The Chinese immigrant is a Ph.D. student at Texas
As the cases snowballed, some began suing.
In response to the litigation, the Army stopped processing
discharges and reinstated at least three dozen recruits who had
been thrown out of the service.
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told reporters late last month
that he supports the MAVNI program.
"We need and want every qualified patriot willing to serve
and able to serve," Mattis said.
Mendoza and Burke reported from San Francisco.