WASHINGTON — Legislation by U.S. Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), vice chairman of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, and U.S. Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) to retain military personnel in the Military Accessions Vital to National Interest (MAVNI) program until their background screenings are completed was adopted as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The Senate passed the NDAA this evening.

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When the military can’t find American citizens with the skills it needs to help defend our country, they turn to the MAVNI program,” said Durbin. “Right now, there are patriots prepared to lay down their lives for ours who are losing their opportunity to serve while waiting for their background checks to clear. With all the threats facing the United States today, we simply cannot afford to lose these brave men and women because of a technicality.”

Men and women who have volunteered to serve our country in the Armed Forces deserve nothing but our respect and support,” said Harris. “These servicemembers have skills and talents that are vital to our national security and we must ensure they aren’t victims of a slow bureaucratic process.”

The MAVNI program allows immigrants with skills deemed vital to the national interest to enlist in the Armed Forces. Cosponsored by U.S. Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Tammy Duckworth, Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Mark Warner (D-VA), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), the amendment allows MAVNI recruits to remain in the Armed Forces for an additional year while the Department of Defense completes their background checks and security screenings. Under current law, recruits are automatically separated from the Armed Forces after 730 days if they have not yet completed basic training—– which no MAVNI recruit can do until they pass the extensive security screening.

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