Military families head to a hometown baby shower hosted by U.S. Army Garrison Ansbach at the Von Steuben Community Center in Bavaria, Germany, on July 20, 2017. (U.S. Army photo by Visual Information Specialist Warkentin Eugen)

USCIS Citizenship Policy for Military Families, Federal Workers Abroad a ‘Disservice’ to Those Who Serve, Say Critics

Acting USCIS Director Ken Cuccinelli accused critics of “freaking out over nothing” after U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services issued a policy manual update detailing how some children born abroad to members of the U.S. military or federal workers would not automatically be considered U.S. citizens.

The guidance “rescinds previously established USCIS policy, which stated that certain children who were living outside the United States were considered ‘residing in’ the United States,” USCIS said Wednesday.

USCIS said the changes, which forces parents to apply for the child’s citizenship as of Oct. 29, apply to children with “non-U.S. citizen parents who were adopted by a U.S. citizen U.S. government employee or U.S. service member, children with non-U.S. citizen parents, such as a lawful permanent resident U.S. government employee or U.S. service member who naturalized only after the child’s birth, or two U.S. citizen government employee or U.S. service member parents who do not meet the residence or physical presence requirements to transmit citizenship to their child at birth (or one non-U.S. citizen parent and one U.S. citizen parent who does not meet these requirements).”

U.S. Army veteran Will Goodwin, director of Government Relations for VoteVets, said the policy change “raises more questions than answers” but its stated guidance that children of service members are not guaranteed citizenship upon birth “is an abominable and anti-patriotic position for the Trump administration to take.”

“Tonight, there’s someone likely on patrol in a war zone, or at an embassy, who is scared to death that their child is no longer a citizen, just because they were born overseas,” Goodwin said. “There are military families sitting at the kitchen table, trying to figure out how this might affect their child’s benefits. The stress and strain that this is causing military families is a cruelty that one would never expect from a commander in chief.”

American Foreign Service Association President Eric Rubin said that “forcing (members) to go [through] 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.”

Pentagon spokeswoman Lt. Col. Carla Gleason told The Hill that the Defense Department “has been working closely with our colleagues as DHS/USCIS regarding recent policy changes and understands the estimated impact of this particular change is small.”

“However, we are committed to ensuring affected families are provided the appropriate information, resources, and support during this transition,” she added.

Cuccinelli tweeted that the policy manual update “does not affect who is born a U.S. citizen, period.”

“It only affects children who were born outside the U.S. and were not U.S. citizens. This does NOT impact birthright citizenship,” he said. “The policy update doesn’t deny citizenship to the children of U.S. gov employees or members of the military born abroad. This policy aligns USCIS’ process with the Department of State’s procedures for these children – that’s it. Period.”

“U.S. laws allow children to acquire U.S. citizenship other than through birth in the U.S.,” Cuccinelli added. “Children born outside of the U.S. to a U.S. citizen parent or parents may be U.S. citizens at birth under INA 301 or 309, or before age 18 through their U.S. citizen parent(s) under INA 320.”

USCIS Issues Policy Guidance on ‘Residence’ Requirements for Acquiring Citizenship

Bridget Johnson is the Managing Editor for Homeland Security Today. A veteran journalist whose news articles and analyses have run in dozens of news outlets across the globe, Bridget first came to Washington to be online editor and a foreign policy writer at The Hill. Previously she was an editorial board member at the Rocky Mountain News and syndicated nation/world news columnist at the Los Angeles Daily News. Bridget is a senior fellow specializing in terrorism analysis at the Haym Salomon Center. She is a Senior Risk Analyst for Gate 15, a private investigator and a security consultant. She is an NPR on-air contributor and has contributed to USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, New York Observer, National Review Online, Politico, New York Daily News, The Jerusalem Post, The Hill, Washington Times, RealClearWorld and more, and has myriad television and radio credits including Al-Jazeera and SiriusXM.

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