Published: Fri, August 30, 2019
Medical | By Mark Scott

USA officials defend new citizenship rules for some military families

USA officials defend new citizenship rules for some military families

The policy won't affect citizens serving in the military or working for the government overseas or change birthright citizenship for children born within the U.S. according to Ken Cuccinelli, acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Children born overseas to non-military, non-government parents still automatically gain US citizenship so long as at least one parent is a USA citizen who has previously lived in the United States for five years or more.

He said it appears the new process will require more evidence from parents on the length of their residence in the United States and will no longer be able to count time spent overseas while serving in the military or working for the US government as time in the United States.

Among those who will have to apply for citizenship are parents whose children were not born as US citizens, including for example, USA parents of adopted children born to non-citizens and parents who were not citizens at the time of their child's birth, but have since been naturalized.

Currently, children born to USA citizens stationed by their government in a foreign country are legally considered to be "residing in the United States", thus allowing their parents to simply obtain a certificate showing their children acquired citizenship automatically. "Trump's administration is saying that when active members of OUR OWN MILITARY give birth while they are deployed overseas, their children are not considered USA citizens". The Trump administration has unveiled new rules on Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2019, that will make it harder for children of some immigrants serving in the military to obtain citizenship. "This does NOT impact birthright citizenship".

"This policy aligns USCIS" process with the Department of State's procedures for these children - that's it. Period'.

The new policy, which goes into effect October 29, addresses the definition of "residence" in the Immigration and Nationality Act and affects children of servicemembers and civilians living overseas who did not acquire citizenship at birth or while they were living in the United States.

It appears to target children of service members who are legal permanent residents and not United States citizens, but could also affect citizens if they can't prove they lived in the United States for a certain amount of time.

"This policy update does not affect anyone who is born a US citizen, period", Cuccinelli said in a statement.

Parker, the USCIS spokeswoman, repeatedly refused to answer questions from The Associated Press, referring only to Cuccinelli's Twitter statement.

Meanwhile, Modern Military Association of America Executive Director Andy Blevins slammed the policy shift as a "truly beyond reasonable" and "preposterous change by the Trump-Pence administration".

Previously, their children would be considered to be both living in and outside of the United States for purposes of eventually gaining citizenship.

Some immigration lawyers said there is no guarantee that the government will approve citizenship applications.

"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.

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. "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 USA service members.

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