On November 30, 2018, a federal court enjoined a Trump administration policy adopted last year that called for enhanced background checks for lawful permanent residents wanting to serve in the U.S. military. The extra vetting in addition to biometrics screening and other existing requirements caused long delays that have prevented potential recruits from reporting for basic training.
The Pentagon agreed to resume sending a backlog of thousands of green card holders to basic military training in response to a preliminary injunction issued in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. Prospective recruits will be assigned to training slots based on various factors such as their preferences, available class dates and career field quotas.
Affected permanent residents argued in federal court that the October 2017 policy change unfairly targeted them because U.S. citizens were not subjected to the same rules. The judge agreed that the Pentagon had not provided a satisfactory explanation for why the extra screening was necessary.
The tougher policy for green card holders resulted in many recruits fearing being branded as disloyal after having their interest in legal options flagged during security background checks. Such recruits feared retaliation for discussing or joining lawsuits against the government, or even posting in online groups to voice their frustration at the Department of Defense’s ever-changing policies.
Military officials expressed concerns that the shortage of troops due to the growing backlog of green card holders could be problematic. According to The Washington Post, the average wait time for a green card holder to enter the military had increased to 354 days in comparison to 168 days for U.S. citizens.