"It's an admission by the Army that they've improperly discharged hundreds of soldiers."

The US Army has suspended the practice of discharging immigrant recruits who joined the army in order to gain a pathway to citizenship, reported The Associated Press Thursday.

The memo obtained by AP, which was dated July 20, instructs high-ranking Army officials to immediately cease processing discharges of recruits who enlisted as part of a special immigrant program.

"Effective immediately, you will suspend processing of all involuntary separation actions," read the memo received by AP and signed by Acting Assistant Secretary of the Army for Manpower and Reserve Affairs Marshall Williams.

The memo's release comes a month after an AP report showed that dozens of immigrant enlistees were having their contracts canceled or were being discharged.


A portion of those recruits said that they were given no explanation for their discharge by the Army. Other recruits said they were told they were being discharged because they were deemed security risks due to having relatives living abroad or because their background checks weren't completed by the Army.

The Army originally said that the discharges were not due to any policy change.

However, Margaret Stock, an Alaska-based immigration attorney and a retired Army Reserve lieutenant colonel who helped create the immigrant recruitment program, said that the newly released memo proves that the administration has had a change in policy.

"It's an admission by the Army that they've improperly discharged hundreds of soldiers. The next step should be go back and rescind the people who were improperly discharged," she told The Associated Press.

The policy of expediting immigrants' pathway to citizenship if they serve in the army began to develop under former President George W. Bush after 9/11. In an effort to increase the United States' military ranks after the attack, Bush ordered "expedited naturalization" for immigrant soldiers who have legal status in the US.

This became official policy seven years later, becoming an official recruitment program called Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest program. 

About 110,000 members of the Armed Forces have obtained citizenship by serving in the military since 9/11, according to the Defense Department. 10,000 immigrants recruited through the program are currently serving.