Accuracy in Media

A report from the Associated Press last week that accused the Trump administration of removing immigrants from the military lest they serve honorably and thus become eligible for citizenship appears to have been significantly misleading.

The AP story – which Snopes presented without comment – says, “Some immigrant U.S. Army reservists and recruits who enlisted in the military with a promised path to citizenship are being abruptly discharged.”

It says that “immigration attorneys say they know of more than 40 who have been discharged or whose status has become questionable, jeopardizing their futures.”

AP reported that all had signed enlistment contracts and taken an Army oath, and many were reservists who had attended drills, received pay and undergone training. Others were in a delayed entry program, it reported.

Newsweek’s  headline read: “U.S. Army Accused of Discharging Immigrant Recruits After Promises of Path to Citizenship.” It stated military members were “discharged without being provided any reason for their dismissal, while others were told they had been labeled security risks because they had relatives living abroad or because their background checks were still pending.”

Slate declared this another part of President Trump’s war on immigrants.

“The Trump administration’s quest to reduce the number of immigrants – of any status – in the United States has taken many forms, some visibly abhorrent and others quietly so,” it wrote. “The Associated Press added to the list of discreet moves by the administration with its report Thursday outlining how the Pentagon appears to be quietly discharging immigrant recruits that enlisted as part of a U.S. government program that fast-tracked them to citizenship in return for their services.”

The Hill closed its story by explicitly linking this to other policies in a way the facts clearly do not support. “The report comes amid a Trump administration crackdown on immigration, including a ‘zero tolerance’ policy mandating that all immigrants caught entering the country illegally face prosecution.”

What actually happened is that President George W. Bush began a program known as the Military Accessions Vital to National Interest – or MANVI – program. Newsweek reported 5,000 people were recruited into the program in 2016, and 10,000 continue to serve. Cutting 40 people out of a program in which 10,000 participate likely means anti-immigrant feelings do not explain the behavior.

The program was suspended in 2016, before President Trump took office, and ended this spring because, even after the Obama administration had ordered enhanced background checks of MANVI participants, concerns over security could not be allayed.

The problem lies with those who had signed up but had not actually entered the armed forces. Because of the enhanced requirements imposed by the Obama administration on security background checks, the military has found many recruits can’t pass the new, tougher checks and has declined to bring them into the military.

If they can serve even briefly and be honorably discharged, they can access an expedited citizenship process.

“It’s a bit of a stretch,” wrote the Washington Examiner, “to use the word ‘discharged’ for people who’ve only applied and then failed the prerequisite background check. You can’t be fired from a job for which you were never hired.”

Newsweek turned to John Kasich, the Republican governor of Ohio, to condemn the Trump administration for this without noting, of course, that Kasich is a critic of everything the Trump administration does.

“Breaking faith with these members of our armed forces, as this White House has decided to, is yet another low,” Kasich’s statement reads. “The decision must be reversed now, for the sake of our military, to show that America keeps its word and to uphold the very values we claim to stand for.”

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