Vetting measures implemented in the final months of the Obama administration have put the lives of thousands of immigrants who joined the military on hold as they await the completion of background checks, The New York Times reported Saturday.
While the Pentagon told the Times that there had been "some delays" in the extensive vetting process, the holdups have left about 4,300 people in the Army alone unable to enter basic training or deploy, according to the report. Those who are on active duty are confined to staying on military bases.
While the military allows immigrants who are living in the U.S. legally to enlist, as many as 1,500 people have seen their legal statuses lapse as they wait for their background checks to be completed.
Many of the enlistees facing delays joined Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest (Mavni), a program that aims to recruit immigrants with legal status in the U.S. to enlist in the military in exchange for expedited citizenship.
Since Mavni began in 2008, about 10,000 people have joined the military, and many have already received the citizenship that the program promises.
But a lawsuit filed by seven of its participants against the Defense Department alleges that the Pentagon has unnecessarily and improperly delayed and derailed their military careers, and outlines an extensive vetting process probing at least 10 years of financial, professional and educational activities.
Army spokesman Hank Minitrez told the Times that the background checks were "absolutely necessary," and have been delayed by the high volume of applications.
"These background checks are quite extensive and time consuming, but are absolutely necessary," he told the Times.