Some former international students who were able to earn their U.S. citizenship through MAVNI (Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest), a program that allowed non-U.S. citizens to join the military and in return become U.S. citizens, are now suing the Department of Defense.
Seven individuals who were former international students and joined the military through MAVNI are suing claiming, “unconstitutional national origin discrimination imposed by Department of Defense (DoD).”
They are claiming discrimination because according to a memo that was sent on September 30, 2016 it said citizens naturalized through the MAVNI program can no longer apply for security clearances. Because of this action, the lawsuit claims this memo “cripples their military careers and prevents them from using their talents for the benefit of the national defense.”
This means many of those who earned citizenship through MAVNI can’t move up in their military careers, such as becoming officers or sign certain contracts.
According to the lawsuit, “natural-born U.S. citizens can immediately apply for a security clearance when they enlist, even if they have not undergone any of the background checks required of MAVNIs…. The subject DoD guidance memoranda unconstitutionally discriminate against Plaintiffs based on their national origin in violation of Plaintiffs’ equal protection rights as guaranteed by the Due Process clause of the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.”
The seven individuals filing the lawsuit were former international students who were on F-1 visas and graduated from universities in the United States. Native countries include India, South Korea, Kenya, Kosovo, and China.
You can read the entire lawsuit by clicking here.
How MAVNI works
MAVNI stopped taking recruits in 2016. The program was supposed to be extended to September 2017, however, applications are not being accepted until the U.S. Army completes “revisions” to the program.
MAVNI gave the opportunity to certain legal non-citizens who were fully licensed health care professionals or who spoke one of the 44 sought-after languages to join the U.S. Military.
Many of the recruits were those on a F-1 (student) visa or a H-1B (working) visa.
In return, they were naturalized as U.S. citizens. This program was developed because the Army had a difficult time recruiting qualified healthcare professionals and recruits who could speak certain languages.
You can read more about the MAVNI program and Saral Shrestha, a former international student who joined the military through MAVNI in our previous issue of ISV Magazine.