MAVNI: Inappropriate Access to the Military and Needless Security Risk

By Dan Cadman on August 4, 2017

The Center for immigration Studies has consistently been against opening up military recruitment to aliens who would otherwise be ineligible, such as nonimmigrants and, most particularly, those illegally in the country. It is unnecessary to meet recruiting goals, most aliens would not meet the educational or background standards of our modern fighting forces, and it introduces needless risk into the equation of national defense and security. (See, for instance, here and here.)

One of our board members, retired Lt. Gen. Harry E. Soyster, who at one time ran the Defense Intelligence Agency, has been particularly plain-spoken about this: "The standards to enter today's military are rigorous and should not be subject to compromise. With the many threats posed around the world that our armed forces are obliged to meet to keep Americans safe, enlistment programs are not the place to try to enact social policies or achieve political goals. It also is not fair to our serving soldiers and veterans who have met the standards and exceeded our expectations in repeated deployments in defense of their country."

Even so, the idea has had a continuing appeal to open-borders advocates and some of their fellow travelers in Congress as a way of shoe-horning at least a portion of the illegal alien population into some form of amnesty, ostensibly in order to pursue "the national interest".

So it was that the Pentagon adopted a pilot program that permitted enlistment under a program called Military Access Vital to the National Interests (MAVNI) for various asylees, refugees, and nonimmigrants (like foreign students) — plus certain illegal aliens who were recipients of temporary authorization to stay under programs like Temporary Protected Status (TPS) or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).

The theory was that certain non-resident aliens with special language abilities or other skills "vital to the national interest" would be a net boon to the armed forces. In return for their enlistment, these aliens would not merely get permanent status (and in the case of the illegals, get legalized), but in fact would short-circuit the ordinary rules of time-in-residence and go straight to the head of the line and be granted naturalization.

But, as I have said before, we at the Center have been skeptical of the need to recruit aliens of dubious loyalty, whose backgrounds are impossible to adequately investigate, and, in the case of the DACA or TPS illegals, whose very identities are open to question.

Although initiated during the Bush administration, MAVNI was one of the many programs moved forward in concert, and on many fronts, by senior Obama White House advisors using a series of legally questionable immigration executive actions to achieve a multiplicity of mini-amnesties after the large-scale amnesty contained in the Gang of Eight "comprehensive" immigration reform bill failed to pass the House of Representatives.

Since introduction of MAVNI, it's surprising (or perhaps not really) how many members of our legislative branch, from both parties, have fallen for that lure and repeatedly attempted to embed in law, and expand upon, this argument of access to the military for illegal aliens in return for sharing their supposedly unique skills.

Fast forward through several years of MAVNI to the present. Fox News is reporting that the Pentagon has suspended the program because, after a year of inquiries, Defense Department investigators issued a classified report detailing how it has been compromised. Fox quotes two lawmakers this way:

The program has been replete with problems, to include foreign infiltration — so much so that the Department of Defense is seeking to suspend the program due to those concerns.


Where are they? What do they know? Where are they serving? What are their numbers?

Among the many concerns are that some MAVNI recruits may have been given access to national security information — perhaps even including that of a strategic or tactical counterterrorism nature that involves methods or sources — that is now compromised, and that some of the recruits themselves are apparently absent without leave or have deserted.

Because the report is classified, we don't know exactly how far the damage may extend, and Pentagon spokesmen are being tight-lipped: "The Department of Defense is conducting a review of the MAVNI pilot program due to potential security risks associated with the program."

Meanwhile, the Defense Department is being sued by aliens who enrolled under the program but were not inducted prior to its suspension — an obvious consequence for a sadly unnecessary program that should never have been adopted, and that exposed the military to exactly the kind of risk that any reasonably intelligent individual should have foreseen.

It will be interesting to see whether common sense prevails in the courts (as it clearly did not with the president's executive order pausing visas and refugees from some high-risk nations) and the lawsuits fail, because both national security and military discipline should and must predominate in considerations of this kind.

Oh, by the way: According to some media sources, among the unique skills provided by some of these aliens to the military were those of "cook" and "driver".