We'll dive right in and start with a further example of the general dysfunction that is the United States these days. A few days back, the news broke that the U.S. Army was discharging foreign-born recruits
that had enlisted under the guise of a pathway to citizenship.
New York (CNN)In June, a young Pakistani student studying in Minnesota managed to get his hands on the documents that explained why he wouldn't be allowed to join the United States Army.
The electrical engineering student, who didn't want his name revealed because of fear of reprisals if he goes back to Pakistan, "has the potential to present a security risk" the now unclassified document reads.
But it's not clear exactly what that risk is. The document simply notes "incomplete data and records checks." And in the section "Foreign Ties," the interviewer notes that the student's "cell phone case is an American flag and he has a US Army bumper sticker on his car."
The young man is one of an increasing number of immigrants who are turning to the courts to fight their rejection by the Army, according to a lawyer who started a program to recruit talented foreigners into the US military. The military says the program they'd signed up through, which promised expedited citizenship in exchange for service, had become a security risk and that applicants require tougher vetting. Critics accuse the Pentagon of xenophobia, building on a fear of foreigners to the detriment of an Army that is struggling to find enough recruits, and talented ones at that.
Exactly how many foreign recruits have been rejected or discharged is unclear, but a number of them have filed lawsuits around the country to contest the decision. The Pentagon says 10,000 people were initially recruited as part of the Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest (MAVNI) program, designed to bring in talented and specialized recruits who could not only provide essential expertise in foreign campaigns, but also help fill gaps at a time when the US military is struggling to meet recruiting goals.
"I found [joining the Army] the most honorable way to become a citizen of a country I've loved since I was five," the young Pakistani man told CNN in a telephone interview. He had signed up to the Army in April 2016, applying to be a power generator mechanic. "I had this deep loyalty toward the US since I was a kid. It was like a fairyland for me," he said.
Like many others, this young man was kept in limbo with little or no information until finally being told he was being rejected. Now, the student not only won't be able to enlist, but his path to citizenship is blocked as well, with a visa expiring in six months and potential deportation looming.
In one way he was more fortunate than the others who have suffered the same fate: The student is one of the few who has seen the official reason for his dismissal in black and white, in the documents obtained through a Freedom of Information Act application. Most are simply being told by recruiters that they have failed the gantlet of background checks that have gotten increasingly strict in the past two years.
While we can debate the so-called reasons behind the discharges all day, you'd think the new policy would be universal, given who is in charge.Except it isn't.
The United States Marine Corps didn't get that memo.
More than 800 foreign-born prospective Marines will soon ship off to boot camp, despite reports that the Army is discharging immigrant soldiers who'd followed a similar path to military service in hopes of becoming U.S. citizens.
The Marine Corps is still processing applicants with lawful permanent resident status, Gunnery Sgt. Justin Kronenberg, a spokesman for Marine Corps Recruiting Command, told Military.com.
There are currently about 830 men and women born outside the U.S. in the Corps' delayed-entry program.
"The Marine Corps has not discharged any of them due to excessive time in the pool awaiting suitability determinations," Kronenberg said.
Those in the delayed-entry program have signed enlistment agreements and train for boot camp with their recruiters and other prospective Marines. They're typically in the program for several weeks or months.
Last week, The Associated Press reported the Army was quietly booting dozens of soldiers who'd joined the military and completed entry-level training with the promise that they'd qualify for U.S. citizenship. The story added new fuel to a heated ongoing debate over immigration.
Those soldiers joined as part of the Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest program, or MAVNI, which started under President George W. Bush and was designed to help the military attract health care professionals or personnel with specific language skills.
An estimated 10,400 troops signed up to serve through that program, but none were Marines. The Marine Corps opted not to participate in the program, Kronenberg said.
"The Marine Corps does not have any medical occupational field and we do not have the type of shortfalls in language proficiencies that would necessitate participation in MAVNI," he said.
The Marine Corps isn't the only service to have opted out of the program. The Air Force doesn't participate in MAVNI, according to a spokeswoman with that service. And the Coast Guard continues to admit immigrants who read, write and speak English fluently; are admitted to the U.S. as lawful permanent residents; and have no prior military service, said Chief Warrant Officer 3 Chad Saylor with Coast Guard media relations.
The service has no plans to review that policy, he said.
"However, in order to re-enlist in the Coast Guard or Coast Guard Reserve, the member must become a U.S. citizen," Saylor added.
Members of the Marine Corps' delayed-entry program must complete all security and suitability screening requirements before they can ship off to boot camp. After 180 consecutive days on active duty, they can qualify for honorable service, which allows them to expedite the naturalization process.
That's a Defense Department policy, Kronenberg said. Some new Marines qualify to take the Oath of Allegiance to become U.S. citizens immediately following the end of boot camp.
Whether or not you agree with any of this - it's surely indicative of a bigger problem. The United States is so vast and varied that even a competent leader can have difficulty keeping it all in order.
What that says about those currently in charge is abundantly clear.