Canadian officials who met with Ukrainian unit linked to neo-Nazis feared exposure by news media: documents

Not good, neither the substance nor optics:
The Canadians met with and were briefed by leaders from the Azov Battalion in June 2018. The officers and diplomats did not object to the meeting and instead allowed themselves to be photographed with battalion officials despite previous warnings that the unit saw itself as pro-Nazi. The Azov Battalion then used those photos for its online propaganda, pointing out the Canadian delegation expressed “hopes for further fruitful co-operation.”After a journalist asked the Canadian Forces about the Azov social media postings, officers scrambled to come up with a response, according to documents obtained by this newspaper through Access to Information law.

Lt. Col. Fraser Auld, commander of Canada’s Joint Task Force Ukraine, warned that a news article might be soon published and could result in questions being asked inside the Canadian government about why such a meeting took place.

A year before the meeting, Canada’s Joint Task Force Ukraine produced a briefing on the Azov Battalion, acknowledging its links to Nazi ideology. “Multiple members of Azov have described themselves as Nazis,” the Canadian officers warned in their 2017 briefing.Bernie Farber, head of the Canadian Anti-Hate Network, said the Canadians should have immediately walked out of the Azov Battalion briefing. “Canadian armed forces personnel do not meet with Nazis; period, full stop,” Farber said. “This a horrendous mistake that shouldn’t have been made.”

Farber said it was also disturbing the Azov unit was able to use the Canadians in propaganda attempts to legitimize its far-right ideology. Besides its support of Nazi ideology, Azov members have been accused of war crimes and torture.

One gathering that journalists didn’t find out about was a December 2018 event in Ukraine attended by then Canadian Army commander Lt.-Gen. Jean-Marc Lanthier, according to the documents.Members of the Azov Battalion were present, but, again, instead of denouncing the battalion’s Nazi sympathies, the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Forces focused concern on the possibility that photos might have been taken showing Canadian soldiers with members of the Azov unit.

Chris Henderson, then assistant deputy minister for public affairs, emailed more than 20 DND public-relations officers, worried that photos might appear online. “Do we have a clear expression of CAF policy toward this group?” he asked of the Azov Battalion. “This may or may not prompt questions, but we need to be ready and not come across as being taken by surprise.”

Jaime Kirzner-Roberts, policy director of the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center, said Canada had to make it a priority that its military personnel have no involvement with far-right fascist militias in Ukraine under any circumstances. “It’s concerning that, for the second time in a month, we have seen evidence of Canadian military officials engaging with Ukrainian neo-Nazi groups,” she added.Kirzner-Roberts was referring to a recent report from an institute at George Washington University in the United States revealing that Centuria, a far-right group made up of Ukrainian soldiers linked to the Azov movement, boasted they received training from Canada and other NATO countries. Researchers with the university tracked social media accounts of Centuria, documenting its Ukrainian military members giving Nazi salutes, promoting white nationalism and praising members of Nazi SS units.

In 2018, the U.S. Congress banned the use of U.S. funds to provide arms, training and other assistance to the Azov Battalion because of its links to the far-right and neo-Nazis.National Defence spokesman Dan Le Bouthillier said the Canadian military was examining its policies on the vetting of foreign troops it trains as well as the information uncovered by the George Washington University report.

He had earlier noted that the 2018 meeting with Azov Battalion members was planned and organized by Ukrainian authorities. Canadian military representatives had no prior knowledge of those who would be attending, he added. Le Bouthillier noted it was the job of the Canadian defence attaché to assess the situation in the conflict zone. “Canada has not, does not, and will not be providing support to Azov and affiliated entities,” Le Bouthillier said.

In 2019, the Soufan Center, created by former FBI agent Ali Soufan, who was involved in a number of counter-terrorism cases, warned about the connection between the Azov Battalion and white nationalists. “In Ukraine, the Azov Battalion has recruited foreign fighters motivated by white supremacy and neo-Nazi beliefs, including many from the West, to join its ranks and receive training, indoctrination and instruction in irregular warfare,” the report outlined.The Azov Battalion has been formerly incorporated into the Ukrainian military, at least in theory, the Soufan Center report noted. But the battalion has cultivated a relationship with members of the Atomwaffen Division, a U.S.-based neo-Nazi terrorist network, it added.

Source: Canadian officials who met with Ukrainian unit linked to neo-Nazis feared exposure by news media: documents

Military police investigate dozens of complaints of racism in the Canadian Army

Not all that surprising but encouraging that recent initiative to review cases is bearing some results. And makes sense that all three services should have comparable review to assess extent and measure change:

Military police and civilian law enforcement have investigated up to 70 cases of alleged hateful conduct and racist attitudes within the Canadian Army since a crackdown began in September last year, CBC News has learned.

A briefing prepared for the army’s acting commander last winter and obtained under access to information legislation shows 115 cases were catalogued up until that time, with 57 of them being investigated by military authorities.

Figures updated to the end of August — and released to CBC News — show an additional 28 allegations. Of those, 13 were deemed serious enough to warrant a police investigation.

Source: Military police investigate dozens of complaints of racism in the Canadian Army

In France’s Military, Muslims Find a Tolerance That Is Elusive Elsewhere

Of note, a rare success story of integration in France:

Gathered in a small mosque on a French military base in southern Lebanon, six soldiers in uniform stood with their heads bowed as their imam led them in prayer next to a white wall with framed paintings of Quranic verses.

After praying together on a recent Friday, the French soldiers — five men and one woman — returned to their duties on the base, where they had recently celebrated Ramadan, sometimes breaking their fast with Christians. Back home in France, where Islam and its place in society form the fault lines of an increasingly fractured nation, practicing their religion was never this easy, they said.

“The tolerance that we find in the armed forces, we don’t find it outside,” said Second Master Anouar, 31, who enlisted 10 years ago and who, in keeping with French military rules, could be identified only by his first name.

For the past two decades, as France’s Muslim population has sought a greater role in the nation, officials have often tried to restrict Islam’s public presence under an increasingly strict interpretation of French secularism, known as laïcité.

law aimed at the Muslim veil in 2004 banned the wearing of religious symbols in public schools, and prompted years of anguished debates over France’s treatment of its Muslim population, Europe’s largest. A new law against Islamism by President Emmanuel Macron is expected to strengthen government control over existing mosques and make it harder to build new ones.

But one major institution has gone in the opposite direction: the military.

The armed forces have carved out a place for Islam equal to France’s more established faiths — by hewing to a more liberal interpretation of laïcité. Imams became chaplains in 2005. Mosques have been built on bases in France and across the world, including in Deir Kifa, where some 700 French soldiers help a United Nations force keep peace in southern Lebanon. Halal rations are on offer. Muslim holidays are recognized. Work schedules are adjusted to allow Muslim soldiers to attend Friday Prayer.

The military is one of the institutions that has most successfully integrated Muslims, military officials and outside experts said, adding that it can serve as a model for the rest of France. Some drew parallels to the United States Army, which was ahead of the rest of American society in integrating Black Americans.

In a country where religious expression in government settings is banned — and where public manifestations of Islam are often described as threats to France’s unity, especially after a series of Islamist attacks since 2015 — the uncontested place of Islam in the military can be hard to fathom.

“My father, when I told him there was a Muslim chaplain, didn’t believe me,” said Corporal Lyllia, 22, who attended Friday Prayer wearing a veil.

“He asked me three times if I was sure,” she added. “He thought that a chaplain was necessarily Catholic or Protestant.”

Sergeant Azhar, 29, said he grew up facing discrimination as a Muslim and difficulty practicing his religion when he worked in a restaurant before joining the military. In the army, he said, he could practice his religion without being held in suspicion. Forced to live together, French of all backgrounds know more of one another than in the rest of society, he said.

“In an army, you have all religions, all colors, all origins,” he said. “So that allows for an open-mindedness you don’t find in civilian life.”

At the heart of the matter is laïcité, which separates church and state, and has long served as the bedrock of France’s political system. Enshrined in a 1905 law, laïcité guarantees the equality of all faiths.

But over the years, as Islam became France’s second biggest religion after Roman Catholicism, laïcité has increasingly been interpreted as guaranteeing the absence of religion in public space — so much so that the topic of personal faith is a taboo in the country.

Philippe Portier, a leading historian on laïcité, said there was a tendency in France “to tone down religion in all spheres of social encounter,” especially as officials advocate a stricter interpretation of laïcité to combat Islamism.

By contrast, the military increasingly views religion as essential to its own management, he said.

“Diversity is accepted because diversity will come to form the basis of cohesion,” he said, adding that, contrary to the thinking in many French institutions, the underlying rationale in the military was that “there can’t be cohesion if, at the same time, you don’t make compromises with the beliefs of individuals.”

Military officials said they had been sheltered from the politicization of laïcité that occurs in the rest of society.

“The right approach is to consider laïcité as a principle and not as an ideology,” said Jean-Jacques, the Muslim chaplain in Deir Kifa. When it becomes an ideology, he added, it “inevitably creates inequalities.”

The Rev. Carmine, the Protestant chaplain on the base, said that the army was proof that laïcité works as long as it is not manipulated. “Why do we talk so much about laïcité in recent years in France?” he said. “It’s often to create problems.”

A 2019 French Defense Ministry report on laïcité in the military concluded that freedom of religious expression does not undermine the army’s social cohesion or performance. In contrast to how laïcité has been carried out elsewhere in society, the report promotes “a peaceful laïcité” that can “continue adapting itself to the country’s social realities.”

“The liberal model of laïcité that the military embodies is a laïcité of intelligence, a laïcité of fine-tuning,” said Eric Germain, an adviser on military ethics and religious issues at the ministry, who oversaw the report.

Mr. Germain said the military has been faithful to the 1905 law, which states that to safeguard freedom of worship, chaplaincy services are legitimate in certain enclosed public places, like prisons, hospitals and military facilities. The state has a moral responsibility to provide professionalized religious support to its military, he added.

The integration of Muslims into the military mirrored France’s long and complicated relationship with the Islamic world.

Muslim men from France’s colonial empire served as soldiers as far back as the 1840s, said Elyamine Settoul, an expert on Muslims and the French military at the Paris-based National Conservatory of Arts and Crafts. Early last century, there were fitful attempts to cater to Muslim soldiers’ religious needs, including the appointment of a Muslim chaplain, though for only three years, Mr. Settoul said. After World War II, the independence movement in France’s colonies, coupled with a general mistrust of Islam, put the efforts on hold.

The issue could no longer be ignored in the 1990s, as the end of mandatory military service was announced in 1996, and as the military began huge recruitment efforts in working-class areas. Children of Muslim immigrants from former French colonies became overrepresented, and now Muslims are believed to account for 15 to 20 percent of troops, or two to three times the Muslim share of the total French population.

Unequal treatment of Muslim cohorts fueled “a discourse of victimization in the ranks” and a recourse to identity politics, Mr. Settoul said. The lack of alternatives to meals with pork, which are forbidden in Islam, created “tensions and divides” and even led to fights, he said.

Catholic, Protestant and Jewish chaplains had formally served in the French military since the 1880s. But a century later, there were still no Muslim chaplains to cater to the needs of frontline soldiers, who often had to turn to Catholic chaplains.

1990 report commissioned by the Defense Ministry highlighted the risks of internal divisions unless the army gave equal treatment to its Muslim soldiers.

Despite what Mr. Settoul described as a lingering suspicion of Islam, the military incorporated Muslim chaplains in 2005 — around the same time that other parts of French society went the other way, banning the Muslim veil and other religious symbols in public schools. That began a process of integrating Muslims ahead of “the rest of society,” Mr. Settoul said.

In 2019, there were 36 active-duty imams, or about 17 percent of all chaplains. There were also 125 Catholic priests, 34 Protestant pastors and 14 rabbis.

The soldiers at Friday Prayer, ranging from their early 20s to their early 40s, were all children of immigrants. They grew up listening to their parents or grandparents talk of praying in makeshift premises before mosques were built in their cities. Some had mothers or other female relatives who still faced suspicion because they wore veils.

Sergeant Mohamed, 41, enlisted two decades ago, a couple of years before the first Muslim chaplains. He recalled how it had become easier to fully practice his religion in the army. While Muslim soldiers had been given large rooms to gather in and pray, they now had access to mosques.

In the army, Sgt. Mohamed said he could take a paid day off on Eid al-Fitr, the celebration marking the end of Ramadan.

“My father worked for 35 years, and every boss deducted eight hours of work,” he said, adding that his father, who immigrated from Algeria four decades ago, never imagined that his children would be able to practice their religion in the army. “In 40 years, there’s been amazing progress after all.”

Perhaps more than anything, the integration of Islam amounted to a recognition of his place in the army, Sgt. Mohamed said.

“The fuel of the soldier is recognition,” he said. “And when there is recognition of our faith, it’s as though you’re filling up our tanks.”

Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/26/world/europe/in-frances-military-muslims-find-a-tolerance-that-is-elusive-elsewhere.html?action=click&module=In%20Other%20News&pgtype=Homepage

Black Canadians fought racism, discrimination to serve in Second World War

Good reminder of one of the unfortunate parts of our history:

When one starts asking questions about the experience of Black Canadians during the Second World War, it doesn’t take long to land on the name Allan Bundy.

That’s because at a time when the Canadian Armed Forces is promising to crack down on systemic racism, as well as individual acts of discrimination in the ranks, Bundy’s story speaks to both.

He was one of many Black Canadians who had to overcome discrimination and racism to fight during the Second World War, says Canadian War Museum historian Andrew Burtch.

His story also highlights the long presence of racism in the Canadian Armed Forces, even as it strives today for more diversity, including by promising to end hateful conduct in the ranks.

“One of the top bullets in the most recent Canadian defence policy is looking at leveraging the diversity of the country as a strength and creating better circumstances to allow for that to happen, which would include making sure that people are supported,” Burtch said.

“Obviously there wasn’t that support before.”

Air force, navy quietly barred Black and Asian Canadians

Bundy was 19 years old when he and a white friend named Soupy Campbell went to the Halifax recruiting centre to join the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) as pilots. It was late 1939, Germany had just invaded Poland, and Canada and its allies were mobilizing their militaries after declaring war on the Nazis.

When Bundy and Campbell walked out, however, only Soupy had been accepted to join the RCAF. Bundy, according to the stories, felt like he had been rejected because of the recruiting officer’s own racist attitudes. Such incidents had been common during the First World War, in which Bundy’s own father had served in Canada’s only all-Black unit, the No. 2 Construction Battalion.

What Bundy didn’t know at the time was that the entire RCAF, as well as the Royal Canadian Navy, were quietly barring Black and Asian Canadians from all but the most general positions. The policy wasn’t publicized, but most jobs could only go to British subjects who were white or of “pure European descent.”

When conscription was introduced a few years later, the Canadian Army came calling for Bundy. But he wanted to fly, and he wasn’t afraid to say it when an RCMP officer visited a short time later to ask why he hadn’t responded to the Army’s summons.

“I told him that I had gone to join the Air Force in 1939 and if the bullet that kills me is not good enough for the Air Force, then it is not good enough for the Army either — so take me away,” Bundy later recalled telling the Mountie.

Soon afterward, Bundy visited the recruiting station again. By now, because of a shortage of trained pilots and aircrew, the RCAF had started to open its doors to Black Canadians and others.

Even after being accepted and trained, Bundy faced a new form of discrimination. None of the white navigators wanted to serve on his Bristol Beaufighter.

It was only after a sergeant by the name of Elwood Cecil Wright volunteered that Bundy became the first Black Canadian to fly a combat mission during the war.

During their first mission, the two sank a pair of enemy ships off the coast of Norway. They would fly 42 more missions together before the war ended and Bundy returned home to Halifax.

Service changed attitudes in Canadian society

The Canadian War Museum credits Bundy and dozens of other Black Canadians who served with the RCAF during the Second World War as having helped “change attitudes toward visible minorities in the military, and in Canadian society.”

Kathy Grant is the founder of the Legacy Voices Project, which seeks to share the stories of Black Canadians who served during the two world wars. One of those was Grant’s own father, Owen Rowe, who travelled to Canada from Barbados to volunteer for the Second World War and asked her to start the memorial project.

Grant believes the war helped pave the way for more rights and freedoms for Black Canadians.

Some such as Lincoln Alexander, who went on to become lieutenant-governor of Ontario, were able to take advantage of the benefits offered by Ottawa to veterans. Many also felt empowered to fight for those rights, and found allies in former comrades-in-arms who were white.

“They wanted things to change,” Grant said. “They were thinking: ‘Well, why are we fighting? Here it is, some of us are dying and they’re out of line by just denying us these rights.’ But it was a large shift for Canada as a whole.”

Source: Black Canadians fought racism, discrimination to serve in Second World War

Officials: Pentagon eyes new way to bar Confederate flag

Clever move:

Defence leaders, who for weeks have been tied in knots over the incendiary issue of banning the Confederate flag, are weighing a new policy that would bar its display at department facilities without actually mentioning its name, several U.S. officials said Thursday.

No final decisions have been made, but officials said the new plan presents a creative way to ban the Confederate flag in a manner that may not raise the ire of President Donald Trump, who has defended people’s rights to display it. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss ongoing internal deliberations.

Secretary Mark Esper discussed the new plan with senior leaders this week, triggering some bewilderment over the lack of an appetite for a straight-forward ban on divisive symbols. The Marine Corp has already banned the Confederate flag saying it can inflame division and weaken unit cohesion. Military commands in South Korea and Japan quickly followed suit and the other three military services were all moving to do the same when they were stopped by Esper, who wanted a more uniform, consistent policy across the whole department.

An early version of the Department plan banned display of the Confederate flag, saying the prohibition would preserve “the morale of our personnel, good order and discipline within the military ranks and unit cohesion.”

That policy was never finalized, and a new version floating around the Pentagon this week takes a different tack, simply listing the types of flags that may be displayed at military installations. The Confederate flag is not among them – thus barring its display without singling it out in a “ban.”

Acceptable flags would include the U.S. and state banners and the widely displayed POW/MIA flag. Official military division and unit flags are also likely to be allowed.

The move is an attempt at finding compromise, as Esper tries to enact a ban that passes legal muster, gives military leaders what they want, but doesn’t infuriate the commander in chief. That delicate balance has proven difficult and officials said Thursday there was no guarantee that this latest version would make the final cut.

An apparent sticking point is whether the military services will be allowed to develop their own more stringent policies on what they consider to be divisive symbols, and whether the policy will state that or leave it unsaid.

Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy told reporters on Thursday that he is still working on a policy that would remove all divisive symbols from Army installations.

He specifically didn’t mention the flag, but said, “we would have any divisive symbols on a no-fly list.”

Confederate flags, monuments and military base names have become a national flashpoint in the weeks since the death of George Floyd. Protesters decrying racism have targeted Confederate monuments in multiple cities. Some state officials are considering taking them down, but they face vehement opposition in some areas.

Trump has flatly rejected any notion of changing base names, and has defended the flying of the Confederate flag, saying it’s a freedom of speech issue.

Source: Officials: Pentagon eyes new way to bar Confederate flag

Beijing says Canadian military participation at Chinese sports competition more proof it’s not losing global support

Another reminder of how the 2020 International Metropolis conference in Beijing will be presented as legitimization of the regime’s repressive policies towards minorities (e.g., “re-education camps” for Uighurs, Tibet) and general human rights abuses.

How DND and others attending didn’t think or consider how this would be presented hard to understand.

If you haven’t already, please consider signing the petition a number of us initiated against the holding of the conference in Beijing: http://chng.it/kfzPmtVk

Beijing’s embassy in Canada says the fact the Canadian military just sent a “big delegation” to a sporting competition in China is more evidence the Asian power is not losing friends.

Canada-China relations are in a deep freeze after Beijing locked up two Canadians in apparent retaliation for Ottawa’s detention of a Chinese high-tech executive on an extradition request from the United States. China banned Canadian pork and beef and severely curbed purchases of Canadian canola seed and soybeans.

China has also come under heavy criticism for how the Beijing-backed administration in Hong Kong is handling unprecedented protests there, and in the mounting scrutiny of the internment of an estimated one million Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang Province.

But the Chinese government, through its representatives in Canada, wants Canadians to know Beijing is not isolated or losing support.

It posted a statement on the website of its embassy in Canada to criticize a column published in The Globe and Mail last week, titled How China Loses Friends and Alienates People. The guest column by a U.S. academic discussed the backlash from China after Daryl Morey, general manager of the NBA’s Houston Rockets, tweeted remarks in support of the protests in Hong Kong and said bullying is self-defeating behaviour that will cost Beijing support.

The embassy said the list of China’s friends is growing. “More and more countries commend China’s foreign policy and development path. China’s friends are all over the world. This is a fact that can neither be obliterated nor changed by some people’s groundless accusations,” the Chinese embassy said.

“In the future, we will have more and more friends in various fields.”

It highlighted the presence of Canada and other nations in the World Military Games, held in China from Oct. 18 to 27.

International participation in the games, which attracted “9,308 military athletes from 109 countries, including a big delegation from Canada, speaks volumes in this regard,” the embassy said.

Ottawa didn’t issue any news release before or during the games to draw attention to Canada’s participation.

Daniel Le Bouthillier, head of media relations at the Department of National Defence, said Canada sent 114 athletes, 57 coaches and support staff.

Guy Saint-Jacques, a former Canadian ambassador to China, said he’s surprised Canada sent soldiers.

He said Canada must rethink how it engages with Beijing. “Now that we have seen the dark side of China, we have to have a much more realistic approach to China. Yes, we have to engage them … but at the same time we have to take into account they can be very brutal if we do something they don’t like.”

Mr. Saint-Jacques said China’s pressure on other countries and companies to avoid criticism of its conduct is growing: “Their list of red lines is getting longer all the time. It used to be Falun Gong and Tibet and Taiwan. Now it’s Hong Kong and Xinjiang too.”

The Defence Department did not directly answer when asked why Canada sent athletes to China even as Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland accuses Beijing of arbitrarily detaining former diplomat Michael Kovrig and entrepreneur Michael Spavor.

The department said Canada “remains deeply concerned by China’s actions, including the arbitrary detention,” added that it hoped the games foster friendship.

“The spirit of the World Military Games is to create a space for friendly competition among armed forces,” Mr. Le Bouthillier said.

China expert Charles Burton, who served in the Canadian embassy in Beijing, said National Defence should not have participated in the military sports games.

“At this time, there shouldn’t be any celebratory activities going on between Canada and China, and I would suggest a major sports competition is about celebrating friendship and therefore I think it was a mistake for our military to go,” he said.

Mr. Burton said Canada’s participation “must be quite offensive” to the families of Mr. Kovrig and Mr. Spavor. The two were arrested and later charged with stealing state secrets after Canada detained senior Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. executive Meng Wanzhou last December. They have been in prison for almost a year.

Canada’s new ambassador to China, Dominic Barton, undertook consular visits with Mr. Spavor and Mr. Kovrig over the last week.

Mr. Burton, a senior fellow at Centre for Advancing Canada’s Interests Abroad, said he hopes the Canadian government will not send athletes to the Beijing Winter Olympic Games in February, 2022, because that would be signalling “that relations are normal and passively accepting what China is doing.”

Conservative MP Peter Kent said it was inappropriate to send athletes to Beijing.

“It is unacceptable. Basically, the government should be curtailing completely collegial events at a time when Canadians are held hostage and where trade embargoes have been improperly placed on contracted Canadian sectors,” he said.

Mr. Kent also said Canada should also consider boycotting the Olympics.

Source: pointing to

USA: Military Families May Soon Lose Key Immigration Protections

Really hard to understand the ongoing cruelty of some of the Administration’s policies:

The Trump administration is considering changes to immigration policies that had previously protected the spouse and dependents of military service members from deportation, a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services official confirmed Monday.

“Parole in Place” is an immigration policy implemented at the height of the Iraq War to help deployed soldiers not worry that their undocumented family members would be deported while they were overseas.

It is one of several immigration options made available to the military in recognition of “the important sacrifices made by U.S. armed forces members, veterans, enlistees and their families. To support these individuals, we provide discretionary options such as parole in place or deferred action on a case-by-case basis,” the agency says on a web page for service members.

Parole in Place grants undocumented dependents and spouses a reprieve to be able to legally adjust their immigration status without having to leave the United States or be deported first. The program was rarely used until senior military leaders and then-members of Congress — including Vice President Mike Pence — urged in 2010 that the Department of Homeland Security increase access to the program.

A USCIS official confirmed exclusively to McClatchy, on condition of anonymity, that the agency is now reviewing the program. Any changes would be limited to dependents of service members, the official said.

Retired Army Reserve Lt. Col. Margaret Stock, an attorney who specializes in military immigration issues, said the administration is expected to issue a decision on whether or not to end Parole in Place at the end of July. She first became aware of the proposed changes when attorneys for some of the service members who could lose their dependents to deportation began expediting requests to get the reprieves for their family members.

The policy review comes at a time when it has become more difficult overall for service members to pursue U.S. citizenship. The number of military naturalizations has plummeted since President Donald Trump took office, and service members are now rejected for citizenship at a higher rate than civilian applicants, according to the most recent USCIS data available.

In the last several years, Parole in Place has been used sparingly, and has not protected all of the dependents of service members from deportation. The federal agency responsible for all adjudication of immigration cases does not track the number of waivers or deportations of service members or their dependents that it has processed.

Source: Military Families May Soon Lose Key Immigration Protections

Immigrant service members are now denied US citizenship at a higher rate than civilians

Another illustration of the effects of the Trump administration hard-line immigration policies and practices:

Immigrants serving in the U.S. military are being denied citizenship at a higher rate than foreign-born civilians, according to new government data that has revealed the impact of stricter Trump administration immigration policies on service members.

According to the same data, the actual number of service members even applying for U.S. citizenship has also plummeted since President Donald Trump took office, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services reported in its quarterly naturalization statistics.

“The U.S. has had a long-standing tradition of immigrants come to the U.S. and have military service provide a path to citizenship,” said retired U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Paul Eaton, a senior adviser to the liberal veterans advocacy group VoteVets.org. “To have this turnaround, where they are actually taking a back seat to the civilian population, strikes me as a bizarre turn of events.”

According to the most recent USCIS data available, the agency denied 16.6% of military applications for citizenship, compared to an 11.2% civilian denial rate in the first quarter of fiscal year 2019, a period that covers October to December 2018.

The fiscal year 2019 data is the eighth quarterly report of military naturalization rates since Trump took office. In six of the last eight reports, civilians had a higher rate of approval for citizenship than military applicants did, reversing the previous trend.

Attorneys for service members seeking to become citizens said new military immigration policies announced by the administration in 2017 and Trump’s overall anti-immigrant rhetoric are to blame.

“I think people are disheartened right now by the immigration climate,” said Elizabeth Ricci, an attorney who is representing immigrant service members. “We talk about a wall all the time. This is an invisible wall.”

Overall, the number of service members who apply to become naturalized citizens is just a fraction of the civilian applications, but both pools have shrunk over the last two years. In the first quarter of the Trump administration, January to March 2017 — which is the second quarter of fiscal year 2017 — there were 3,069 foreign-born members of the military who applied to become naturalized citizens. That same quarter, 286,892 foreign-born civilians applied.

In the first quarter of fiscal year 2019, USCIS reported it received only 648 military applications for citizenship, a 79% drop. For comparison, the agency received 189,410 civilian applications, a 34% drop.

The Defense Department was repeatedly asked for comment by McClatchy, but did not provide a response.

USCIS officials said the drop in applications is not due to any action by their agency, which processes the applications as it receives them.

“The fall in military naturalization applications is likely attributable in significant part to the Department of Defense’s decision not to renew the Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest (MAVNI) program after its expiration at the end of FY17,” USCIS said in a statement.

Deported To Mexico, US Veterans Are Pressed Into Service By Drug Cartels

Immigrants who wish to join the U.S. military fall into three categories: legal permanent U.S. residents, commonly known as “green card” holders; foreign-born recruits with key medical or language skills who came to the United States under student, work or asylum visas and enlisted through MAVNI; and special status non-immigrant enlistees, who are residents of the Federated States of Micronesia, Republic of the Marshall Islands, and Palau.

The Trump administration in 2017 announced major changes to the way the Pentagon would vet and clear foreign-born recruits and other overall changes to when a service member would qualify for naturalization.

Immigrant enlistees previously could join basic training once a background investigation had been initiated, and they could become eligible to start seeking citizenship after one day of military service. Under the new policy, enlistees do not go to basic training until their background investigation is complete, and they have to complete basic training and 180 days of service before they can seek citizenship.

In the months that followed, the Defense Department shut down naturalization offices at some of its basic training locations, citing the new policy.

7 Immigrant Service Members Who Perfectly Capture The Spirit Of Military Service

Other changes appeared procedural but had deep impact, such as the change that only higher-ranking officers, at colonel or above, were authorized to sign key USCIS forms verifying that an enlistee had served honorably. The signatures had to be original, too, which made it much more difficult for troops in outlier areas where the nearest colonel or higher-ranking officer may be hundreds of miles away, Stock said.

The new rules had a chilling effect, military immigration attorneys said. Unit leaders who previously would have shepherded naturalization paperwork through for their service members have stopped doing so, the attorneys said.

“People are telling them ‘wait until you get to your first unit.’ When they get to the unit they are told, ‘we don’t know anything about this anymore,'” Stock said.

The lack of guidance in units for immigrant soldiers “is all intentional,” Ricci said. “It’s part of this overall culture of ‘No.'”

The new rules have left some recruits waiting for years to serve.

Army recruit Ajay Kumar Jaina, 33, came to the United States from India in 2012 on an H-1B visa to work for Veritas Healthcare Solutions. He has a master’s degree in pharmaceutical analysis and wanted to become a military pharmacist. In May 2016 he enlisted under MAVNI for his medical skills.

He’s been in a holding pattern ever since. In the almost three years he’s waited to go to basic training, he’s reported for duty for more than 20 weekends with the 445th Quartermaster Company in Trenton, New Jersey.

He goes to New Jersey knowing that he will be unable to drill with the rest of the unit because he has not yet undergone basic training since the Defense Department has not completed his background check.

So his activities on base are limited to administration and inventory roles.

“When I registered in the Army, at that time I was told my basic training location. I was told within six months my background check would be verified, and then I could go to basic and then (advanced individual training) then I could be come apply for citizenship,” Jaina said.

Jaina said no determination has been made on his background check yet. “Which is actually good!” he said. “I can wait. I can keep my hopes high.”

Jaina’s H-1B visa expires next month and he said he may have to go back to India in order to be able to return to the United States under a new visa as he continues to wait.

Eaton questioned why the Defense Department would make it more difficult to pull from eligible immigrant recruits, particularly in light of the recruiting challenges the military faces overall.

“Only 25% of the U.S. population is eligible to serve, due to academic, health or behavioral issues,” Eaton said.

Last year the Army missed its annual recruiting goal by more than 6,500 personnel. In a statement, the Army would not say whether the immigration policies had impacted its ability to recruit last year.

“Our leaders remain confident that we have laid the foundation to improve recruiting for the Army while maintaining an emphasis on quality over quantity,” the Army said.

Source: Immigrant service members are now denied US citizenship at a higher rate than civilians

[Multicultural Korea] Military changing to embrace diversity

Interesting (Canada still has challenges with respect to women and visible minority representation in the Canadian Forces):

In a country where the phrase “homogenous nation” was once chanted with pride not long ago, there was nothing strange about a provision within the military law that exempted men of mixed heritage from military service if they were “clearly biracial” in appearance, despite being South Korean nationals.

But the presence in Korea of more foreigners and more international couples is slowly leading the country to a change of attitude. Within the past decade, the military law was amended requiring all men of Korean nationality to serve in the military, regardless of race or ethnicity. (Naturalized South Koreans and North Korean defectors can also enlist, but they are not subject to conscription and can still opt out.) The fact that the number of soldiers had decreased due to low birth rates and the aging population also played a part.

The Ministry of National Defense has proposed measures to encourage the rigid military culture to adapt to the increasingly diverse population, but concerns remain over its capacity to do so.

All able-bodied men of Korean nationality between the ages of 18 and 38 are obligated to serve in the military for about two years. An amendment to the law in 2010 also imposed mandatory military service on Korean men from multicultural households.

When the amended act came into force in 2011, the military enlisted 100 multicultural soldiers in the first year, according to the Defense Ministry. While annual counts of soldiers from multicultural households are not available for privacy reasons, the Defense Ministry estimates that more than 8,500 will enlist annually from 2025 to 2031.

In a step toward embracing diversity within the military, one of the first moves the Defense Ministry took in 2011 was to replace the term “minjok,” or ethnic group, with “gungmin,” or citizen, in the oaths that soldiers take when they enlist or become commissioned officers.

In 2016 the ministry also introduced the Framework Act on Military Status and Service to protect the rights of individual soldiers and prevent discrimination among them. Article 37 of the act states that soldiers have to respect “multicultural values” and that the Defense Minister needs to educate soldiers so that they understand and respect multiculturalism.

The ministry said it is careful not to overemphasize differences between the multicultural soldiers and their peers.

“While life in the barracks is basically a corporate life, the commissioned officers and commanders in the military units will consider the different needs of the soldiers,” an official from the Defense Ministry said.

“We have not been informed of soldiers having difficulties with the diet, or religion.”

In a further step, the five-year immigration reform plan announced in 2018 included a proposal to review compulsory military service for naturalized Koreans.

While the discussion arose in the context of fairness, it also encompassed concerns about security, with some arguing that there would be “Chinese troops,” considering that many naturalized Koreans come from China.

While the inclusion of soldiers from diverse cultural backgrounds represents great progress, said Seol Dong-hoon, a sociology professor at Chonbuk National University, it may be premature to discuss conscription for naturalized Koreans.

“While soldiers from multicultural households are born as Koreans and are naturally imposed with the mandatory military service, the situation is different for naturalized Koreans. Besides, it may not be best to make their duty mandatory, because many of them become naturalized Koreans to pursue their professional careers here — like athletes.”

A year has passed since the proposal was announced, but not much has been discussed. The Defense Ministry said it is reviewing the matter and will comprehensively consider what is fair and what influence such a step might have on society.

More efforts are being made, but society’s fundamental perspective needs to change, Navy Lt. Rhee Keun said. Lt. Rhee, who gave up his US citizenship and came to Korea to enlist as a commissioned officer here, said he had endured numerous discriminatory remarks in his eight years of service.

“When I first joined the Navy here, I had regrets. The senior soldiers would often call me ‘Yankee’ and tell me to go back to my country,” he said. Rhee graduated from the Virginia Military Institute in the United States in 2007.

“They bully you when you come from another country. I did not speak Korean well, did not know much about the Korean culture and I was clumsy at first. So it was very stressful,” he said, adding that the closed military culture revolving around regionalism and school ties should be rejected.

A survey of 131 early-career commissioned officers, undertaken for a doctoral dissertation published last year, hinted that contradictory sentiments about soldiers with multicultural backgrounds have not disappeared.

When asked about the pros and cons of having soldiers from different cultural backgrounds, the officers said their presence could lead to more creative thinking and flexibility in the currently rigid, conservative military and could also reduce discrimination against multicultural families, according to “Officers’ Awareness of Multiculturalism in the Military and Implications for Policy Direction” by Youngsan University researcher Lee Yun-soo.

But they also projected doubts about whether soldiers from different backgrounds could have the same loyalty and devotion to the country, with some saying it would be hard to trust those soldiers in the event of war. Respondents raised concerns that there might be a greater risk of military secrets being leaked, or of Korea making “internal enemies.”

They also said cultural and language barriers could cause trouble inside the military.

“Korea is a country that has a relatively ‘high border’ inside the minds (of our people),” Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon said in announcing the five-year immigration reform plan in February 2018.

Still, Lt. Rhee said, it is important that that more people like him, people from different cultural backgrounds, join the military so that social attitudes can change.

“With more exposure, the sentiments will naturally change. I also believe it is important for everyone to contribute to the society they are in, in any way,” he said.

When it made headlines here that former lawmaker Jasmine Lee, a naturalized citizen from the Philippines, had sent her son to the military in 2016, Lee stressed that equal treatment of multicultural families was important to reduce discrimination.

“While the caring treatment (of multicultural children, by extending military exemptions) is appreciated, making such distinctions could also create a sense of alienation and trigger controversies,” Lee said in a media interview around that time.

For Jung Yeom, a naturalized Korean from China, it is important for her children to fulfill their social duty, even if it is worrying for her as a mother.

“I do worry, but I believe it is always difficult in the beginning, for everything. The country operates (its military system) as it should, and those who do not like it will have to leave,” Jung told The Korea Herald. Jung came to Korea in 1997 to marry her Korean husband and has two sons.

Source: [Multicultural Korea] Military changing to embrace diversity

US Army Is Discharging Immigrants Who Were Promised Citizenship

Ironically, Canada was inspired by the US in 2014’s C-24 citizenship legislation to provide a comparable path, one maintained by the current government:

The military is booting out immigrant reservists and recruits who enlisted with the promise of a path to citizenship, according to a AP report. Some said they are being discharged with little warning or explanation, and the Army and Pentagon said they could not comment due to pending litigation.

Last week Lucas Calixto, a Brazilian reservist who came to the U.S. when he was 12, filed a lawsuit against the Army, alleging that he was offered no reason for his discharge aside from “personnel security,” and given no chance to defend himself.

Immigration attorneys told the AP they know of around 40 other people who have been discharged under similar circumstances, or whose status is now questionable.

Immigrants have served in the U.S. military since the Revolutionary War, and there are roughly 10,000 serving currently. The immigrants facing discharge all enrolled in recent years as part of the Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest program, or MAVNI. The recruiting program, which was started under the George W. Bush administration, offered expedited naturalization to immigrants with much needed skills, including military specialists and people fluent in certain languages.

MAVNI came under attack from conservatives when President Obama made DACA recipients eligible, so the military added additional security clearances for recruits. The Trump administration added even more requirements, creating a screening backlog at the Defense Department. Last fall the Pentagon abruptly canceled the contracts of hundreds of immigrants still in the recruitment process, and a few months later the program was suspended.

GOP Congressman Andy Harris, who backed legislation to limit the program, said it should have been established by Congress, not via executive order. “Our military must prioritize enlisting American citizens, and restore the MAVNI program to its specialized, limited scope,” he said.

Immigrants must have legal status to enroll in the military, but now some fear that in addition to losing their military career they could lose their immigration status. An Iranian citizen with a graduate degree in engineering, who was recently discharged, told the AP that he was proud he was “pursuing everything legally and living an honorable life.”

“It’s terrible because I put my life in the line for this country, but I feel like I’m being treated like trash,” he said. “If I am not eligible to become a U.S. citizen, I am really scared to return to my country.”

Source: US Army Is Discharging Immigrants Who Were Promised Citizenship