Updated July 28 at 5:47 P.M.
Immigrants have fought for the United States since its founding. The Frenchman, Lafayette, fought for America during the Revolutionary War. A quarter of Civil War Union soldiers were immigrants. Today, the Migration Policy Institute estimates more than 500,000 veterans of the U.S. armed forces are foreign-born.
Before 2009, non-citizens were offered expedited citizenship in exchange for military service only if they were legal permanent residents. The Obama administration started a pilot program, Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest. In specified cases, MAVNI allowed for certain other non-citizens with legal temporary visas and critical medical and language skills to join the military, thereby expediting citizenship. The program was suspended in September 2016, leaving more than 1,000 recruits stranded. With the program in limbo, they now risk deportation for overstaying their visas. The Washington Post reports to avoid deportation, some recruits have sought asylum in other countries. To discuss the MAVNI program and the history of foreign-born soldiers in the U.S., we speak with Jeanne Batalova, a senior policy analyst at the Migration Policy Institute. She co-authored the report, Immigrant Veterans in the United States.