Fact Check

Military to Enlist Illegal Immigrants?

Has President Obama quietly ordered the U.S. military to enlist illegal immigrants?

Published Sep 26, 2014


Claim:   President Obama has ordered the military to enlist "illegal immigrants."


Example:   [Collected via Facebook, September 2014]

Morning folks. While you were sleeping, Barack Hussein Obama took out his pen and ordered our Military to enlist illegal aliens. In other words, this charlatan has allowed those who have disrespected our Constitution and are not citizens to take an oath to support and defend the very document, our rule of law, of which they are in violation. Obama has no constitutional authority to make any laws or rules concerning naturalization as stated in Art I Sect 8 Clause 4. This is an... illegal order and should not be followed by our Military. As well, we are pink-slipping men and women in uniform, Americans, and Obama wants to enlist illegals. We are already outsourcing our national security to Syrian Islamists. This is intolerable and just another reason why we must flip the Senate and begin to reverse Obama's tyranny. Any Democrat supporting this illegal order needs to be voted out!


Origins:   On 25 September 2014, the Department of Defense announced an expansion of the program known as Military Accessions Vital

to the National Interest (MAVNI). Under MAVNI, a small number of non-citizens in the United States (i.e., those who came to the United States as children and grew up in the U.S. without legal status or otherwise hold non-immigrant visa or asylee/refugee/TPS status and have been granted deportation deferrals) are eligible to enlist in the U.S. military, with the goal of becoming naturalized U.S. citizens by the time they graduate from ten weeks of Basic Training.

MAVNI is not a new program suddenly opening military service up to potentially dangerous foreign nationals, however. Started in 2008 under the administration of President George W. Bush, the initiative recruits individuals who emigrated to the U.S. with their parents before the age of 16; specifically, it now targets persons approved under the 2012 Deferred Action for Child Arrivals (DACA) program. The goal of MAVNI is to locate and enroll people with specialized skills, particularly highly valued medical and linguistic skills, for military service to the U.S.

Under MAVNI, those who emigrated to the U.S. as children will be eligible for military service should they fit the necessary skills profile. The New York Times noted that the pool of potential recruits who fit the program's narrow requirements is likely to be very small:

[A]dministration officials emphasized that the number who would succeed in enlisting would be very small, probably not more than a few dozen. The requirements are stringent and the program is currently limited to 1,500 recruits each year, and already has a huge backlog of applicants.


The Military Times added that military service in the U.S. already grants eligibility for expedited U.S. citizenship to non-citizens:

On average, the military recruits about 5,000 non-citizens each year, nearly all of them permanent U.S. residents, or so-called "green card" holders. Starting in 2006, DoD began accepting some foreigners with nonpermanent visas, such as students or tourists, if they had special skills that are highly valued.

After entering military service, foreigners are eligible for expedited U.S. citizenship. Since 2001, more than 92,000 foreign-born service members have become citizens while serving in uniform.


According to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the process to obtain naturalization through military service is extensive. That procedure is also not new, according to USCIS:

Since September 2002, USCIS has naturalized 89,095 members of the military, with 10,719 of those service members becoming citizens during USCIS naturalization ceremonies in 28 countries: Afghanistan, Bahrain, China (Hong Kong), Cuba (Guantanamo), Djibouti, El Salvador, Germany, Greece, Haiti, Honduras, Iceland, Iraq, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Kenya, Kosovo, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Mexico, Philippines, Qatar, South Korea, Spain, Thailand, Turkey, United Arab Emirates and the United Kingdom.


The MAVNI program was piloted in 2008 and was set to expire in September 2014; the current initiative expands the program and extends it for another two years.

Last updated:   26 September 2014

David Mikkelson founded the site now known as snopes.com back in 1994.

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