The original number of recruits the U.S. Army wanted this year was 80,000. However, they seem to be falling behind their goal as in April, Army Secretary Mark Esper had said they will fall short of the numbers but plan to have at least 500,000 active duty troops.

This shortage does not seem to deter the army’s current stance of discharging foreign-born recruits who joined the military under a program created to enroll those with medical and valuable language skills. Through the program, the recruits were promised fast-tracked citizenships, which does not seem to be the scenario now.

The program, called Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest (MAVNI), was created during George W. Bush’s administration. Most of the participants are from regions such as China, India, Eastern Europe, Africa, Southwest Asia, etc., with very few being from Latin America or Mexico.

Immigration attorneys said at least 40 have been discharged and many more were stuck in a limbo, the Associated Press reported.

Brazilian immigrant Lucas Calixto, who filed a lawsuit against the Army last week, said, “It was my dream to serve in the military. … Since this country has been so good to me, I thought it was the least I could do to give back to my adopted country and serve in the United States military,” the Time reported. Calixto was a reservist with the army.

Deported veterans Jose Bustillos, a Mexican veteran soldier who said he served in the U.S. Army under the promise of becoming a citizen but ended up deported, takes part in a protest to mark Memorial Day at the Bridge of Americas point of entry in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, May 28, 2018. Photo: REUTERS/ Jose Luis Gonzalez

Similar was the case of Zhang, who asked to be identified with only his last name. An immigrant from China, Zhang swore an oath to serve in the army and was kept as a reserve. After two years, he was handed his discharge papers.

The 30-year-old business management degree holder said, “They just said one word: I was ‘unsuitable … I came here legally, made an agreement to stay legally, and they have not kept the agreement,” the New York Times reported.

Some recruits said they were not informed why they were being discharged, while others were told they were security risks as they had relatives living abroad. Another reason given was the Defense Department had not completed background checks on them.

Alaska-based immigrant lawyer Margaret Stock, who was part of the team that developed MAVNI, said the number of people who have approached her about being abruptly discharged has increased in the past several days.

“There’s no explanation for this except xenophobia,” Stock said, adding, “Immigrants have been serving in the Army since 1775 . … We wouldn’t have won the revolution without immigrants. And we’re not going to win the global war on terrorism today without immigrants.”

More than 10,000 troops have joined the military via this program. But, since the last months of former President Barack Obama’s administration, the Defense Department has increased the scrutiny. Since the beginning, the FBI and CIA conducted background checks of the possible recruits. These checks have become extensive over the past two years, with reviews of decades of finances, lengthy interviews with the applicant as well as relatives, employers and neighbors.

Due to this extensive clearance program, the backlog has also increased. According to a Defense Department official, it would take a minimum of 10 years to clear the current list of candidates.

However, it needs to be noted that during the 10-year of the program, no recruit has been of any security threat to the United States, non-profit RAND corporation mentioned in a study.