Foreign-Born Recruits, Promised Citizenship by the Pentagon, Flee the Country to Avoid Deportation


Foreign-Born Recruits, Promised Citizenship by the Pentagon, Flee the Country to Avoid Deportation
  1. Foreign-Born Recruits, Promised Citizenship by the Pentagon, Flee the Country to Avoid Deportation
    hamodia.com
    Frustrated by delayed promises from the U.S. military for citizenship, and in fear of Islamic State if he were deported back to Iraq, Ranj Rafeeq has given up the American… Read more » The post Foreign-Born Recruits, Promised Citizenship by the Pentagon, Flee the Country to Avoid Deportation appeared first on Hamodia. In related news: Lawmakers Press Trump Not to Deport Foreign-Born Military Recruits Fearing Deportation, Immigrants Rush to Make US-Born Kids Dual Mexican…
    World

By Alex Horton

(The Washington Post) - Frustrated by delayed promises from the U.S. military for citizenship, and in fear of Islamic State if he were deported back to Iraq, Ranj Rafeeq has given up the American Dream for a Canadian one.

Rafeeq was eager as a teenager to translate for U.S. troops stationed in his home town of Kirkuk in 2005. He immigrated to Portland, Oregon, to study seven years later, hoping to don an Army uniform after earning his graduate degree in civil engineering.

He signed an enlistment contract in January 2016, with a training date set in September.

“I loved American soldiers. It was my dream to be a part of them,” Rafeeq, now 29, told The Washington Post.

But Rafeeq’s plans to serve imploded as the Pentagon’s program, designed to leverage medical and language skills of immigrants in exchange for fast-tracked citizenship, was log-jammed with additional security measures for recruits last fall, stressing an already overburdened screening process.

The program was put on hold in September 2016 — just as he was scheduled to report for training — sparking fear in Rafeeq and across the recruit population that their path to citizenship would abruptly end.

Then he received a letter from Kurdish officials warning of sweeps targeting Kurds for deportation and watched as news reports of the program’s struggles mounted.

Rafeeq’s student visa was set to expire on Aug. 1. He faced a decision: Wait for the Pentagon’s bureaucracy to untangle itself as the Trump administration seeks to expand deportation powers, or flee.

He chose to flee. On June 11, Rafeeq went to Vancouver to apply for asylum in Canada. His biggest fear with deportation is the chance that Islamic State terrorists would prize his capture if they uncovered his attempt to enlist.

“I can’t go back to Kirkuk,” he said. “They would kill me.”

On June 26, The Post first reported on the Defense Department’s internal recommendations to shutter the Military Accessions Vital to National Interest program, which has naturalized 10,400 troops since 2009, and to cancel the contracts of 1,800 of recruits like Rafeeq who are waiting to train.

About 1,000 of those recruits have waited so long that they have fallen out of legal immigration status. An internal Defense Department memo obtained by The Post acknowledges that canceling these contracts would expose the recruits to deportation. In response, lawmakers urged Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to honor the contracts of those recruits.

The recruits, who have already sworn allegiance to the United States in their oaths of enlistment, could potentially face harsh interrogations or jail time if they are deported to countries such as China or Russia, said Tom Malinowski, former assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights and labor in the Obama administration.

“These are not rule of law societies, and if they want to put pressure on [recruits], they will,” Malinowski told The Post.

Malinowski said public announcements and photos of enlistments on social media could easily be exploited by adversarial intelligence agencies, in a potential propaganda victory attacking not just the United States but its most revered institution – the military.

Those governments could force the recruits to “tell the honest story of how America betrayed them,” he said.

“The basic purpose of Russian propaganda is not to extol Russia, but to convince people that America is amoral,” Malinowski said.

The Chinese government’s charge of treason, which it finds in cases threatening to national security, ranges from 10 years of confinement to death, according to the Chinese People’s Congress.

Along with South Korea, China is one of the main sources of program recruits, according to a Pentagon assessment of the program.

Media reports on the memo ignited discussion among the program’s recruits and hopefuls, who closely track developments in tightknit online forums, with one social media page alone listing 20,000 members.

A recruit from India who administers some of pages told The Post he has seen an increase in the discussion of recruits seeking preemptive refuge. He estimates that hundreds of the 1,000 potentially under threat of deportation have either fled or are seriously considering fleeing to Canada, Germany, Australia and other countries.

One Chinese national, who declined to give his name, enlisted in the program and expected to leave for training in July 2016, but the program’s suspension and a closing window for his immigration status prompted him to file for asylum in the United States last month.

China has a nativist culture, he said, and if deported he would face persecution from neighbors suspicious of his activities after living in the United States for six years.

“I wish people would see us as assets, not liabilities,” he said. “I love the United States a great deal, and I would do anything to defend this country.”

The program was created after military officials determined that certain medical skills and language proficiencies – such as Russian, Mandarin Chinese and Korean – were vital to national security but in short supply among U.S.-born troops. The program promises citizenship in months instead of the years-long naturalization process.

Program recruits are especially valuable to the Special Operations Command because of deep cultural and language skills necessary to train and advise foreign militaries and militias, according to a 2013 Pentagon review of the program.

Rafeeq’s case is emblematic of sudden widespread distrust in the program at…

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