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Non-Citizen Military Members Sue the Department of Defense for Unnecessarily Obstructing Their Naturalization

Posted by Hugo Valverde | May 15, 2020 | 0 Comments

Six non-citizen members of the United States Military have sued the Department of Defense for obstructing their path to citizenship – promised under the Immigration and Nationality Act for those who honorably serve in the U.S Military. The lawsuit was filed in federal court for the District of Columbia and the service members are represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Southern California, and the ACLU of the District of Columbia.

Since 1952, non-citizens who serve honorably in the U.S. armed forces have been placed on an expedited path to U.S. citizenship under the Immigration and Nationality Act. In order to qualify for the expedited process, troops must get a certification from the Pentagon – a certification that troops used to be able to get a day after beginning their military service, but since 2017 after the Trump administration took office, troops have had to wait for that same certification for six months - one year.  

Under the 2017 Policy, non-citizen soldiers must undergo new security screenings and longer enlistments. The changes came because of security concerns raised in relation to the Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest (MAVNI) pilot program, one of the ways for legal noncitizens to join the military in exchange for expedited citizenship. 

The lawsuit states that United States Citizenship and Immigration Services statistics showed a 72 percent drop in military naturalization applications in 2018 compared to before the new policy. 

While two previous lawsuits were filed around this issue, they were very specified to the MAVNI program, while this lawsuit is described as “the first to represent all non-citizen service members.” This lawsuit alleges that the Department of Defense and Defense Secretary Mark Esper "have adopted an unlawful policy of withholding certifications of plaintiffs' honorable service, which they require to apply to naturalize based on their ongoing military service."

Since September 11, 2001, over 109,250 members of the Armed Forces have attained their citizenship by serving this nation.  Valverde Law thanks and supports the service of all of our U.S. military members and veterans and are proud to provide immigration assistance to our military community in the Hampton Roads, Virginia. 

About the Author

Hugo Valverde

Hugo's passion for immigration law stems from his own family's immigration experience. His father and mother came to the United States from Peru fleeing political persecution, and as he grew up, Hugo spent many summers in Peru. Hugo uses his experience growing up in an immigrant family and time a...


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