If you’re a U.S. citizen serving the country abroad, the department for Citizenship and Immigration Services has tightened up its policies in a way that may no longer entitle you to automatically transmit your U.S. citizenship to your child. The restrictions are confusing, to say the least, but it will only affect a small number of people — officials estimate that it will affect approximately 25 people per year once the policy goes into effect on October 29th.
Still, there’s been a vocal backlash from the military community who feel that they are not getting the support they deserve from the U.S. government despite serving the country. The policy seems to prioritize the administration’s campaign for immigration reform over its support of active duty or veteran members of the military, as well as federal workers who are stationed abroad. The underlying principle is that some people who are serving the country may not be entitled to the same rights that most citizens have, simply because they are stationed abroad while doing important work. And that is why advocacy groups are up in arms over the announcement.
“That is an abominable and anti-patriotic position for the Trump Administration to take,” a director of VoteVets, one of the largest Veteran advocacy groups in the country with over half a million members, said in a statement. “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. The stress and strain that this is causing military families is a cruelty that one would never expect from a Commander in Chief.”
The policy will also affect parents who adopt children while serving abroad, as well as parents who were recently naturalized as US citizens; the latter provision is problematic, in essence suggesting that naturalized citizens are second-class citizens, not afforded the same rights as natural born citizens when having children abroad.
Parents will be able to apply for citizenship on behalf of their children before the child turns 18, but keep in mind that Citizenship and Immigration Services can reject these applications where they see fit. It’s unclear on what grounds applications can be rejected, but the prospect of having any trouble with naturalizing a child is troubling in itself. Jeremy Butler, the chief executive of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, told the New York Times that the policy puts a burden on people who have enough to worry about already. “By targeting the citizenship of children, the administration has made service abroad — an already intense, stressful environment — even more difficult for military families to navigate,” he said. “It’s unclear what issue this policy is trying to solve, and why it’s going into effect imminently without a plan for education, outreach and support for those it affects.”