Keep Promise to Military Recruits

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis

The United States lauds its military members and veterans, only to let them down when it comes to delivering on health care and additional obligations.

President Donald Trump promises strong support for the armed forces and veterans.

“I pledge my unwavering support for you, for your families and your missions. I will always have your back,” Trump said during a Fourth of July military-appreciation speech on the South Lawn of the White House.

A Pentagon recommendation to cancel contracts with thousands of recruits strains that pledge.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis holds the proposal — and the future of legal-immigrant military specialists — in his hands.

The armed forces recruited the specialists for their education, ability and knowledge in particular fields, including medicine, language and computer science. In exchange for military service, the recruits were to become U.S. citizens.

The Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest program, under which they were promised citizenship for service, has fallen out of favor under the Trump administration.


Mattis and Trump should support MAVNI. To do otherwise would make a mockery of the military.

Of 4,200 recruits whose status is uncertain, about 1,000 face deportation if the program is revoked.

The Pentagon and Trump bureaucracies dawdled, allowing residency permits to lapse. Those permits would have been moot, had the government kept its word to put the recruits in service.

The proposal from the Pentagon to Mattis expresses concern over “the potential threat posed by individuals who may have a higher risk of connections to foreign intelligence services,” reports National Public Radio. The Pentagon says this makes the MAVNI program too risky.

The record says otherwise.

Trauma surgeon Kusuma Nio was selected to be part of a U.S. Army Reserve deployment to Afghanistan in May, reports Stars and Stripes. Nio’s citizenship ceremony was postponed April 13, with no new date set. Nio said the Citizenship Immigration Services told him the Department of Defense has suspended all such agreements. He was not allowed to ship out with his unit, the 1st Forward Surgical Team of New York.

Nio was born in Indonesia. He trained in surgery and earned his doctorate at the University of Minnesota. He lives in Springfield, Illinois.

He is trusted and relied upon to carry out civilian emergency-surgery work in a Level 1 trauma center. His medical-trauma abilities match the great need for military surgeons in Afghanistan.

Like Nio, Ameya Kulkarni of Pittsburgh drills with the Army Reserve — in his case, the 340th Engineer Company. Kulkarni is a software engineer for an information-management company in the city.

He enlisted in March 2016 under a MAVNI agreement, reports the Tribune-Review of Warrendale, Pennsylvania.

Progress halted when Kulkarni’s recruiter told him the Army plans to subject him to a counterintelligence review.

That is counterintuitive. Kulkarni told the Tribune-Review that he passed a Tier 5 security-clearance investigation. Tier 5 is the top security level. It includes clearance for critical-sensitive, special-sensitive and top-secret material.

In 2008, Kulkarni traveled from his native India to study computer science at the University of Florida. He graduated with a master’s degree in 2010 and moved to Pittsburgh in 2015.

“I would like to contribute in the field of military intelligence or cybersecurity,” Kulkarni said.


The Department of Defense “ordered ‘extreme vetting’ of MAVNIs and told USCIS not to naturalize any MAVNIs until the vetting was complete,” program creator Margaret Stock told the Tribune-Review. USCIS is the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

“At the same time, DOD says it doesn’t have the resources to do the vetting that was ordered,” Stock said. “Hence, no MAVNI can ship to training and no MAVNI can get naturalized.”

Stock drew up the MAVNI program in 2007, during the administration of President George W. Bush. She presented it to the Pentagon. Stock ran the program in 2008, under the new administration of President Barack Obama. She did so for a one-year pilot with 1,000 recruits, after which the program reached full status. MAVNI has brought in about 10,400 recruits since 2009.

Stock is a retired Army lieutenant colonel and an immigration lawyer in Alaska. She has three degrees from Harvard University and another from the U.S. Army War College. She taught law at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.

Worry over security risks with MAVNI recruits is exaggerated, Stock told NPR. “If you were a bad guy who wanted to infiltrate the Army, you wouldn’t risk the many levels of vetting required in this program.”

Mattis, the defense secretary who is a retired Marine general, must know that the history of incorporating noncitizens into the armed forces goes back to the nation’s first days. In World War I, 20 percent of those in the military were noncitizens.

Security make sense, but not to the point of casting one’s feet in concrete. Consider that citizens and holders of green cards — noncitizens who are classified as permanent residents — can serve in the armed forces without any of the scrutiny proposed for the MAVNI recruits.

Mattis should follow his training and experience. Trump should keep his promise to back up the military.

They should continue the Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest program, with a workable level of security investigation. Any opposing decision would dishonor the military and the nation.

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Trump, Sessions Fail in Court

U.S. District Judge Derrick Watson of Honolulu.

U.S. District Judge Derrick Watson of Honolulu.

President Donald Trump has signed two executive orders banning citizens of some predominantly Muslim countries from entering the U.S. for 90 days.

A third executive order threatened to cut most federal funds to “sanctuary jurisdictions.” In those cities and counties, police and sheriff’s departments do not share immigration information with federal agencies.

States and local governments sued Trump over the orders. Federal judges found each order unconstitutional.

Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions are furious.

Rather than anger, their approach should be respect for rights ensured by the Constitution and care when wielding the presidency’s executive power.

In the case of “sanctuary cities” — the more common term for sanctuary jurisdictions — the city and county of San Francisco sued Trump over his Jan. 25 order, as did the county of Santa Clara, California.

Tuesday, U.S. District Judge William Orrick of San Francisco issued a nationwide preliminary injunction against Trump’s executive order on sanctuary cities and immigration laws.

“The counties have demonstrated that they are likely to succeed on the merits of their challenge,” Orrick said in his ruling against Trump’s order. He added that “they will suffer irreparable harm absent an injunction, and that the balance of harms and public interest weigh in their favor.”

Orrick said, “The Constitution vests the spending powers in Congress, not the president, so the order cannot constitutionally place new conditions on federal funds.”

On the issue of enforcing immigration laws, Orrick said, “Federal funding that bears no meaningful relationship to immigration enforcement cannot be threatened merely because a jurisdiction chooses an immigration enforcement strategy of which the president disapproves.”

Trump criticized Orrick’s decision. “First the 9th Circuit rules against the ban and now it hits again on sanctuary cities — both ridiculous rulings. See you in the Supreme Court!” he wrote Wednesday on Twitter.

The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, based in San Francisco, covers nine Western states, including California, and two territories. Orrick presides in a separate court system, the Northern District of California, which is part of the U.S. District Court.


On March 6, Trump nullified his Jan. 27 executive order banning travel by signing a replacement order.

The old executive order had been blocked Feb. 3 by a nationwide temporary restraining order issued by U.S. District Judge James Robart of Seattle. A three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Robart’s ruling.

Sessions said the new executive order was written to avoid the first order’s pitfalls.

It eliminated Iraq from a list of seven countries whose citizens were banned from traveling to the U.S. for 90 days. The remaining six countries are Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. The order also banned entry of refugees for 120 days.

One day after Trump signed the order, Hawaii sued to stop it.

On March 15, U.S. District Judge Derrick Watson of Honolulu ruled in favor of Hawaii. He issued a temporary restraining order against the executive order’s travel ban.

Watson said he found “evidence of a financial impact from the executive order on the university system.” Hawaii’s university system “recruits from the six affected countries,” he said.

On the question of whether the travel ban targets religion, Watson said “these six countries have overwhelmingly Muslim populations that range from 90.7 percent to 99.8 percent. It would therefore be no paradigmatic leap to conclude that targeting these countries likewise targets Islam.”

On March 29, Watson extended his ruling by making it a preliminary injunction. A three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals is scheduled to hear a government appeal May 15.


Sessions insulted Watson and Hawaii on April 18. “I really am amazed that a judge sitting on an island in the Pacific can issue an order that stops the president of the United States from what appears to be clearly his statutory and constitutional power,” Sessions said to Mark Levin on his talk radio show.

As attorney general and simply as a lawyer, Sessions should know that a federal judge’s ruling can be applied nationwide. Also, he should know that the U.S. District Court in Honolulu would hear a federal lawsuit filed by the state of Hawaii.

Sessions further demeaned himself Sunday when he tried to explain his slur by saying “nobody has a sense of humor anymore” on ABC-TV’s “This Week.”

Watson was not the only judge to make a nationwide ruling on the second travel ban.

On the same day as Watson, U.S. District Judge Theodore Chuang of Greenbelt, Maryland, ruled. From the court, which is just 11 miles northeast of the White House, Chuang issued a nationwide temporary restraining order on the portion of the executive order banning travel from citizens of six nations.

On May 8, the full U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia, is scheduled to hear the government’s appeal of Chuang’s ruling. As many as 15 judges could take part.

In challenges to President Trump’s three executive orders on travel and immigration, the courts are carrying out the role assigned to them by the nation’s founders. They are applying the checks and balances built into the Constitution.

Trump should preside neither as a bully nor by bravado. Sessions should maintain decorum. Trump’s lawyers and the attorney general should hold themselves to the confines of the Constitution. They should encourage the president to do likewise.

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