A crackdown on immigration has been a key policy of the Trump administration. However, citizenship through military service appears to be safe from repeal, according to a Defense Department official.
The comments of Lt. Col. Myles Caggins were reported on Fox News. He said the military will continue to honor a long-standing policy that allows people serving in America’s armed forces to gain a pathway to citizenship.
He also said the United States will continue to welcome noncitizen recruits into its military.
Caggins praised the contribution of foreign nations to the United States military. He said:
“Today’s service members are eligible for expedited citizenship under a July 2002 executive order and the military services have worked closely with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to streamline citizenship processing for service members.”
Caggins confirmed the government has no plans to change or abolish the initiative that provides citizenship through military service. Trump has taken a stance against immigration. He has also stressed his support for the military. He has not made any public comment on citizenship through military service. However, in answer to a question about the rights of an undocumented immigrant in the U.S. military he described the scenario as a “special situation.”
About 5,000 legal permanent residents a year are recruited to the military under the Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest Program. We recently noted an extension to the so-called MAVNI program.
The average number of noncitizens who were on active duty from 2010 to 2016 was about 18,700.
The MAVNI allows applicants who are successful to enlist in the military even if they are not a U.S. citizen or even a permanent resident. The program is only available to certain medical personnel and those with language skills in short supply.
USCIS set up the Naturalization at Basic Training Initiative in 2009. The Army gives noncitizen enlistees an opportunity to naturalize once they have graduated from basic training. The Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps joined the program soon afterward.
Shortly after the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program was set up by President Obama, 359 recipients enlisted in the Army, the only branch of the military that accepts this immigrant category.
Some foreign nationals have given their lives to the country they were serving. In March 2003, Lance Cpl. Jose Gutierrez, a U.S. Marine and Guatemalan native and U.S. Marine was one of the first casualties of the invasion of Iraq. He was posthumously granted full citizenship. Fellow Marine and Mexican national Jesus Alberto Suarez del Solar was killed a week later.
However, recruits must have a recognized immigration status to join the military, be it being a DACA recipient, a green card holder or the holder of a visa. The military does not accept undocumented immigrants.
If you need help with an immigration issue in Austin, San Antonio, San Marco, Round Rock or elsewhere in Texas, please contact our experienced family immigration lawyers for a consultation.