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Press Release

USCIS Targets Military Families With Its Latest Attempt To Curtail Legal Pathways to Citizenship

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LIRS Staff

August 29, 2019

Baltimore, MD – The United States Customs and Immigration Service (USCIS) issued a policy alert yesterday declaring that children born to U.S. service members and government employees overseas will no longer be automatically considered citizens of the United States under certain sections of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).

“This policy change is a grave disservice to our men and women in uniform who defend our nation’s security and interests overseas,” said Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, president & CEO of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service. “We simply cannot repay their courageous sacrifices with a burdensome bureaucratic maze.”

Under the new policy, which is slated to take effect on October 29, 2019, the children of U.S. citizen parents working for the government or military overseas will no longer receive citizenship automatically through Section 320 of the INA, but rather will be forced to apply through Section 322.

“This policy cruelly and needlessly puts the onus on the families to seek citizenship for their children, rather than recognizing that these kids are only foreign-born because their parents answered the call of duty,” continued Vignarajah. “Why would the government make it more difficult for children of those serving abroad to become citizens? Absolutely no one in America is calling for this sort of change.”

While the potential number of children impacted by this policy remains unclear, the financial impact on families who must now apply for their children’s citizenship through Section 322 is very real. The application fee for a Certificate of Citizenship costs $1,170.

“To put such a costly price on citizenship for government and military personnel, who are oftentimes underpaid for their vital work, is simply heartless,” noted Vignarajah. “My parents came to the U.S. with just $200 in their pockets and eventually gained citizenship for themselves and their children through the INA. Chipping away at these pathways through regulatory and financial tactics will close the door to families like mine, who made the promise of the American Dream a reality.”

Founded in 1939, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS) is one of the largest immigration and refugee resettlement agencies in the United States. LIRS is nationally recognized for its leadership working with and advocating for refugees, asylum seekers, unaccompanied children, immigrants in detention, families fractured by migration and other vulnerable populations. Through 80 years of service and advocacy, LIRS has helped over 500,000 migrants and refugees rebuild their lives in America.

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