Alaska attorney says immigrants serving in the military are being unfairly discharged

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ANCHORAGE (KTUU) — According to Alaska immigration attorney Margaret Stock, immigrant recruits and reservists in a special U.S. Army program are being unfairly discharged.

"One person has a girlfriend who's a foreigner, he's known her since she was a little kid, they're engaged, she sends him gifts," Stock said. "The report said he has a foreign fiancé and he plans to sponsor her to immigrate to the U.S. after he's a citizen. They cited that as a foreign tie that made him unsuitable for military service."

Military Accessions Vital to National Interest, known as MAVNI, is a program that was set up after September 11th to bolster the armed forces. Stock says that at the time of the terrorist attacks, there was a shortage of foreign speaking soldiers in service. The program allowed immigrants with critical language or medical skills who were in the U.S. temporarily, such as through student visas, or here seeking asylum, to enter the armed forces.

"The Bush Administration set up the MAVNI program specifically to provide more people who spoke foreign languages for Special Operations command," Stock said.

Stock says the military has been unable to execute its streamlined screening process for immigrants with mission-critical skills.

"It's kind of like if TSA decided they weren't going to let a passenger on a plane unless the passenger had a full body X-Ray, an MRI, a credit check and a 2-hour interrogation by an agent," she said. "Then TSA says 'Well, we don't have resources to do that so we're not going to let you on the plane.'"

As a retired Lieutenant Colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve, Stock is no stranger to military issues. She says it's unfair for the Army to discharge a soldier and not allow them to challenge the decision, and that immigrants to the U.S. have a long and storied history in the armed forces.

"I think people should just look at American history and appreciate it and realize the sacrifices of American soldiers are vital to our national interests and vital to national security."

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