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The Pentagon promised citizenship to foreign-born recruits. Now some are fleeing to avoid deportation, including to Canada

Frustrated by delayed promises from the U.S. military for citizenship, and in fear of Daesh if he were deported back to Iraq, Ranj Rafeeq has given up the American Dream for a Canadian one.Rafeeq was eager as a teenager to translate for U.S. troops stationed in his hometown of Kirkuk in 2005. He immigrated to Portland, Ore., to study seven years later, hoping to don an Army uniform after earning his graduate degree in civil engineering.He signed an enlistment contract in January 2016, with a training date set in September.“I loved American soldiers. It was my dream to be a part of them,” Rafeeq, now 29, said.But Rafeeq’s plans to serve imploded as the Pentagon’s program, designed to leverage medical and language skills of immigrants in exchange for fast-tracked citizenship, was log-jammed with additional security measures for recruits last fall, stressing an already overburdened screening process.Article Continued BelowThe program was put on hold in September 2016 — just as he was scheduled to report for training — sparking fear in Rafeeq and across the recruit population that their path to citizenship would abruptly end.Then he received a letter from Kurdish officials warning of sweeps targeting Kurds for deportation and watched as news reports of the program’s struggles mounted.Rafeeq’s student visa was set to expire on Aug. 1. He faced a decision: wait for the Pentagon’s bureaucracy to untangle itself as the Trump administration seeks to expand deportation powers, or flee.

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