In the aftermath of 9/11, Major Margaret Stock says the attacks may have been prevented had the military had personnel fluent in the same foreign languages the plotters spoke.
From there, she created the Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest (MAVNI) program which would offer expedited citizenship to immigrants who speak certain languages vital to national security.
The program was also open to physicians, nurses, and dentists who could work as medical personnel in the armed services.
“The whole idea of the program was to make sure we have enough people to protect the country.”
One of those who heard about the MAVNI gateway to citizenship was Harminder Saini who came to the US from India as a 6 year old.
He took the language proficiency test for his native Punjabi, passed and was able to enlist where he signed a standard DD Form 4/1 enlistment contract and took the oath.
“I, Harminder Saini, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.”
He was supposed to ship out for basic training after passing a background check so he quit college and prepared for life in the military.
However, the army tripled the number of background checks needed without the proper staff to do them.
Saini and 350 other DREAMer MAVNI candidates were left in limbo, to the point where Saini re-enrolled in school as he awaited his orders.
Another candidate, John, came to the country as a 10 year old from the Philippines and always dreamed of joining the Marine Corps.
When that couldn't happen due to his status as a non-citizen but was eventually able to get DACA and enroll in the army under MAVNI.
Like Saini he remained prepared for the time he'd be called to train.
“If Uncle Sam wants me at basic training, I’ll be on the next plane.”
As if being in limbo was hard enough, after President Trump's announcement of the end of DACA, MAVNI DREAMers who were not in basic training and on the way to naturalization would be in jeopardy of being deported.
As MAVNI DREAMers await their fate, Saini is hopeful that Congress will come to a solution.
“Who knows what’s going to happen? It’s like 50/50, can they get it done? All I want to do is serve,” he said. “Do my part to give back to this country because it allowed me to stay here.”