Bay Area Filipinos divided on undocumented immigrants in miltary

By Rommel Conclara, ABS-CBN North America Bureau

Oct. 1, 2014

REDWOOD CITY, Calif. – The Military Accessions Vital in the National Interest Program (MAVNI) will allow a small portion of undocumented immigrants to serve in the U.S. military and put themselves on a pathway to US citizenship.

The program only accepts those with critical language and cultural skills. Examples include Arabic or Swahili. The number of recruits is capped at 1,500 per year.

Some Filipinos in the Bay Area are divided on the issue.

Tristan Tomas gained his US citizenship after serving in the U.S. Navy. He believes this is a great opportunity for the undocumented to earn legal status.

“I think it’s actually a good idea,” said Tomas. “I mean historically, we’ve had immigrants to join the military even back in the Civil War. One third of the military was composed of immigrants all over. These dreamers, if they want to join the military and serve, then by all means.”

Tomas understands that the program only accepts those with certain skills but he hopes more immigrants could be helped in the future.

“I believe we have to have the necessary skills first and then see how the program would work,” said Tomas. “Then eventually just upgrade it as much as needed.”

But Dreamer Dean Santos is against the new military program for undocumented immigrants.

Santos came to the US over ten years ago from Manila on a tourist visa that soon expired. He continues to push for immigration reform as a coordinator for ASPIRE.

Santos says this military program doesn’t do much to help the undocumented because it can only help a small number.

“This is a bad idea because the program that they’re expanding Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest (MAVNI) is very limited,” said Santos. “You got to have medical expertise or speak a certain language, and I don’t know anyone who qualifies for that.”

Santos acknowledges the effort to help the undocumented, but there is a bigger issue at hand.

“We deserve more than this,” said Santos. “They have delayed administrated relief twice now and we do not need this. What we need is to stop the deportations of families and actual immigration reform.”

Tomas agrees by saying, “I hope they do, but unfortunately there’s so many issues that’s going on right now, so their attention is focused on that. Hopefully they’ll do something about the whole immigration reform because that would be great for everyone.”

You can contact Rommel Conclara at and follow him on Twitter @rommelconclara for more information.

3 Comments on this post.

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  • Mario
    1 October 2014 at 7:39 pm - Reply

    This is a good program for Illegals alien to serve America first before getting a green card. Bad program for liberal Democrats, soldiers were train to follow the constitution and most of them turn conservative and become a Republican.

  • kuya
    2 October 2014 at 5:37 pm - Reply

    We must be very careful in allowing undocumented in the military service because we dont know their personal identity and purpose in America.

  • Kathryn Virrey
    21 May 2015 at 10:33 am - Reply

    This is a really good program that people don’t understand. I wish they would come to local Army recruiter and get the proper information instead of assuming they don’t qualify.

    The process to qualify and join the US Army is an intensive background check so we have to be very accurate on putting together their information. A lot of steps to be able to qualify.