Immigrants in US Military Face Harsher Citizenship Rule for Kids

Acting Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Ken Cuccinelli speaks during a briefing at the White House in Washington on Aug. 12, 2019. The Trump administration has unveiled new rules that will make it harder for children of some immigrants serving in the military to obtain citizenship. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services released updated guidance Wednesday that appears to mostly affect noncitizen service members. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)

(CN) – The Trump administration announced new citizenship rules for some children of U.S. service members serving abroad, creating confusion among legal scholars and immigration attorneys and drawing condemnation from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services released an 11-page memo Wednesday that initially implied children of American citizens would no longer have automatic citizenship if born in another country starting on Oct. 29. Instead, parents would have to apply for citizenship on behalf of the child.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi spoke against the new rules on Twitter, calling for the Trump administration to reverse them immediately.

“America’s service members & diplomats abroad are among our nation’s best, yet @realDonaldTrump is launching an attack on their families, putting in doubt the citizenship of their children born overseas,” Pelosi wrote.

Meredith Parker, USCIS spokesperson, told the military news organization Task and Report  in an interview the new rule “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 U.S. government employees or U.S. service members stationed outside of the United States, and as a result, these children will no longer be considered to have acquired citizenship automatically.”

Following confusion about the rule and whether children of American citizens would be affected, the agency released a policy manual update later in the day that contradicted parts of the earlier memo.

The new rules affect children of military service members and government workers who are legal U.S. permanent residents but not citizens. They can also affect U.S. citizens who can’t show evidence they lived in the U.S. for a sufficient amount of time.

Pentagon spokeswoman Lt. Col. Carla Gleason said in a clarifying statement that the “estimated impact of this particular change is small.”

Acting director Ken Cuccinelli quickly took to Twitter after the memo’s release, saying that “Some people are freaking out.”

“The policy manual update today does not affect who is born a U.S. citizen, period,” he wrote. “It only affects children who were born outside the U.S. and were not U.S. citizens. 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.”

Martin Lester, a Tennessee attorney with the American Immigration Lawyers Association, told The Associated Press that the policy change “is yet another roadblock” that the Trump administration has placed to complicate the immigration process.

“It’s gonna take time, money, it’s gonna cause stress,” Lester said. “There’s gonna be some people whose kids aren’t gonna qualify and that’s gonna cause a huge problem.”


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