USCIS to Honor Veterans During Naturalization Ceremonies

by Joseph McKeown

In honor of Veterans Day, US Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) is celebrating service members, military spouses, and veterans becoming US citizens by taking the Oath of Allegiance at naturalization ceremonies across the country from November 7th through the 14th. More than 3,000 will become new citizens at nearly forty naturalization ceremonies. USCIS reports that since September 2002 more than 102,000 service members, including those serving in Iraq, Afghanistan, South Korea, and Germany, have naturalized.

USCIS Director León Rodríguez, who yesterday administered the Oath of Allegiance and presented candidates for naturalization at a ceremony at the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Virginia, stated: “'On Veterans Day, we honor the men and women who have pledged to defend our nation, as we cherish the freedoms we enjoy because of the sacrifices of our service members, and their families...Today, we honor those who pledged to defend our nation before they were even citizens of our nation.'”

The USCIS fact sheet explains that special provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) authorize USCIS to expedite the naturalization process for current members of the US armed forces and recently discharged members as well as spouses. 

Immigrants generally must be US citizens or Green Card holders to enlist in the military, but last year Representative Jeff Denham proposed under the ENLIST Act to amend the US military code to allow young undocumented immigrants who arrived in this country by age fifteen to serve in the armed forces in exchange for legal status and a path to citizenship. When he tried earlier this year to introduce †his measure as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act, it was struck down.

Most recently, after announcing the military would allow young immigrants in the US under Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) to join through the specialized program called Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest (MANVI), the Pentagon has put this program on hold.

It's unclear if President Obama's long-promised executive action on immigration reform will include a path to citizenship through the military for the undocumented.

USCIS has invited users to share photos of new citizens on Twitter under the hashtag #newUScitizen (which along with today's new citizens includes a photo of actor Jonny Lee Miller becoming a citizen as well as an one-hundred-year-old woman who become a citizen earlier this year).