Prez Trump cancels automatic citizenship for children of some US military members


The Trump administration is making it more difficult for the children of some US service members and US government employees living abroad to automatically become US citizens, according to a policy alert released Wednesday by US Citizenship and Immigration Services.

The rule appears to
primarily affect the children of naturalized US citizens serving in the armed
forces who have not lived in the US for a required period of time, a relatively
small number — estimated to be approximately 100 annually, according to a
Defense Department official.

It does not impact anyone born in the United States.

US citizenship can be
acquired a few ways, including being born in the country. Children born abroad
can acquire citizenship through their US citizen parents either at birth or
before the age of 18.

While the latest policy
guidance doesn’t make anyone ineligible for citizenship, it appears to narrow
how children abroad can gain citizenship. President Donald Trump has
occasionally voiced his support for ending birthright citizenship and said
last week he was “seriously” considering ending it, though it’s
unclear how he’d have the legal authority to do so. Acting USCIS Director Ken
Cuccinelli said on Twitter that the new policy “does NOT impact
birthright citizenship.”

Still, the policy, which takes effect on October 29, sparked confusion among
military and diplomatic groups who immediately denounced the alert, concerned
that the rule change would place hurdles before children of federal employees
and military workers serving abroad.

“Military members
already have enough to deal with, and the last thing that they should have to
do when stationed overseas is go through hoops to ensure their children are US
citizens,” said Modern Military Association of America Executive Director
Andy Blevins.

A Navy officer told CNN that the guidance was
also injecting serious stress among military spouses. “You should go onto
a spouse Facebook page and see the freakouts,” the officer said.

A USCIS spokesperson,
referring to a section of the immigration code about residence, said “the
policy change explains that we will not consider children who live abroad with
their parents to be residing in the United States even if their parents are US
government employees or US service members stationed outside of the United
States, and as a result, these children will no longer be considered to have
acquired citizenship automatically.”

“DOD has been
working closely with our colleagues at DHS/USCIS regarding recent policy
changes and understands the estimated impact of this particular change is
small,” said a Pentagon spokesperson.

The updated policy
directly impacts US government employees and service members, many of whom are
temporarily assigned to posts overseas for extended periods. The policy says
children living abroad with a parent who is a US government employee or US
service member will not be considered to be ” ‘residing in the United
States’ for purposes of acquiring citizenship” under a section of
immigration law.

Previously, their children would be considered to be both living in and outside
of the US for purposes of eventually gaining citizenship. By stripping the
children of the former, the only way they can get citizenship is through a
parent applying for them, whereas before it would’ve been automatic provided
they meet certain requirements, said Cristobal Ramon, senior policy analyst at
the Bipartisan Policy Center.

USCIS says the policy
could affect children of lawful permanent residents who naturalized after a
child’s birth.

The agency cited
conflicts with the definition of “residence” in immigration law, as
well as conflicts with State Department guidance, as reason for the change,
according to the guidance.

“Forcing (members)
to go though (sic) bureaucratic hurdles for no apparent reason, just to get
their children naturalized as American citizens, does a great disservice to
people who have dedicated their lives to serving their
country,” said American Foreign Service Association President
Eric Rubin. “Frankly, it is hard to explain and deeply worrying.”

Immigration attorneys
also took issue with the change.

“The fact that those of us who deal with immigration law all the time can read this memo and immediately point out plausible scenarios leads me to believe it’s going to impact some number of people. Impacting one person is too many,” said Martin Lester, chair of the American Immigration Lawyers Association’s Military Assistance Program, which provides pro bono immigration law services to US service members.


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