Bad News for Immigrants in the Military

The federal agency responsible for processing US citizenship has closed its officers at locations dedicated to the basic training of the US Army, creating another obstacle for immigrant military recruits offered a fast pathway to US citizenship in exchange for serving in the military.

The move is the strongest hint so far that the popular program could be permanently shelved by the Trump administration, even though Defense Secretary, Jim Mattis, believes it could be saved. The offices of US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) at Fort Jackson in South Carolina, Fort Sill in Oklahoma, and Fort Benning in Georgia were shut down on 26 January, according to a spokeswoman speaking to BuzzFeed News. The offices had been responsible for naturalizing service members and their families.

The closure of the offices spells the end for immediate expedited citizenship following the completion of basic training for recruits, which has been the key aspect of the Military Accessions Vital to National Interest program that has resulted in the naturalization of over 10,400 members of military service since 2009. A public affairs guidance document from USCIS released on 30 January noted that requirement changes by the Department of Defense resulted in the decision to close down Naturalization at Basic Training Initiative.

The changes were announced in October 2017, and mean that active duty recruits now have to serve at least 180 days consecutively before being granted citizenship, as well as undergoing extra security and background checks.