“USCIS and the Pentagon ending expedited naturalization at [basic combat training] locations is very, very disappointing,” said Harminder Saini, a recruit originally from India, “because the Army used this incentive as a recruiting tool and are now backing off their promise. The fact that I potentially would be an American soldier but still not be an American citizen after finishing training doesn't feel right at all”:
“USCIS has decided to end the Naturalization at Basic Training Initiative,” says a USCIS public affairs guidance document dated from Jan. 30. The document cited “changes in Department of Defense requirements for certifying honorable service for US service members applying for naturalization.”
Those changes, announced last October, require active duty recruits to serve for at least 180 consecutive days and complete extra background and security checks before they can be granted citizenship. That delay forces many of the immigrant recruits to violate the visas that allowed them into the United States in the first place, subjecting them to immigration detention. It also denied them privileges that require citizenship, like applying for a drivers license in some states or seeking US residency for their to spouses and children.
The change in the program, which the Pentagon has laid to potential security threats and insufficient vetting, has angered recruits who say it violates the deal they made — providing the US military with much-needed language and medical skills in return for becoming US citizens after basic combat training, or BCT.
“Thousands of recruits who are green card holders with a two-year conditional permanent resident status face the same issue, as that status could expire while they are still waiting to report to BCT and be naturalized,” Buzzfeed continues:
Others have had their contracts cancelled or postponed when US Army recruiters, though often well intentioned, make mistakes on the complicated paperwork and land them in risky immigration situations.
The immigration office closures are “yet another roadblock from USCIS and the Army to us becoming legal,” William Medeiros, a 25-year-old US Army recruit, told BuzzFeed News.
“Even though you swore an oath to defend the only country you know…I guess military service from immigrants is not valued as it once was in this country,” he said.
This is ridiculous—and a shame. We should be making citizenship for members of the military easier, not more difficult. Instead, Trump wants to throw a military parade while ignoring the retired military leaders who have called for the DREAM Act now:
Dreamers are the next generation of patriotic and hardworking Americans who want to stay here, make a difference, and — for many -— sign up to protect us from threats around the world. They would continue the tradition that started during the Revolutionary War of immigrants giving the American military an edge. One in five Medal of Honor recipients are immigrants. And as of 2016, roughly half a million veterans were born outside the United States.
That’s why [we] are calling on our leaders in Washington to find a solution, and soon. Each day, more than 120 DACA recipients lose their protection from deportation, and their ability to work and contribute. Without a deal, more than one-third of DACA recipients already in the Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest (MAVNI) program will be unable to fulfill their enlistment contracts and the military will lose these soldiers. We’d lose potentially thousands of additional men and women who would sign up to serve. And we’d send the wrong message to the world.
“Shame on USCIS,” tweeted Arizona Congressman Raul Grijalva. “If you're willing to enlist and put your life on the line for this country, you deserve citizenship. Leaving our vets open to deportation after their service is unacceptable.”
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