Children of Non-Citizen Service People Abroad not Citizens

Aarna Pal-Yadav, Writer

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If a non-citizen military person serving abroad has a child outside the US, their child is not a US citizen. There are three ways to be or become a citizen: naturalization is when someone becomes a US citizen after birth; birthright citizenship is when a child is born on US soil is a US citizen; a child’s acquisition of citizenship if one of their parents is a US citizen (the child does not need to be born in the US). The child of this non-citizen service person abroad is not a citizen because they cannot acquire citizenship from their parents; they were not born on US soil; they were never naturalized. Simply put, if a non-citizen service person has a child when posted outside the US (although, it is illegal to refuse a posting abroad), the child is not a US citizen. 

Imagine this: a service person is posted abroad and they cannot refuse the posting, without violating their orders and possibly being incarcerated. Then, this service person has a child abroad – will not be considered a US citizen. It’s worth noting that 3% percent of service people are not US citizens – instead, they were promised expedited citizenship when they were recruited. One major incentive of serving for non-citizens is naturalization – shouldn’t their children be citizens, too? On the other hand, if a service family in which at least one parent is a US citizen has a child while serving outside the US, the child is a US citizen through the acquisition of citizenship. 

A United States Citizen and Immigration Services official told Task & Purpose, “If you’re not born on U.S. soil – and military bases aren’t considered U.S. soil. . . you can get citizenship through your parents. But the parent has to be a U.S. citizen when you’re born. Otherwise, they can’t transmit anything to you.” 

Think about this: the child of a non-citizen service family is not a citizen, however, if one of the child’s parents is a US citizen, the child is a citizen. Both service families are putting their lives on the line for the US but only one gets the benefit of citizenship for their child. 

Service people are criticizing the Trump Administration for this policy, as many people believe there should be an exception for non-citizen service people. Since these non-citizen service people have no option but to service abroad shouldn’t the US at least ensure their children can be citizens? 

Critics argue, however, that too few families are affected for an exception to be made. In reality, even though only a handful of families are affected, this does not undermine its importance. These service families, who are not even US citizens, love the US enough to put their lives on the line – will they still love the US if an exception isn’t instituted?

Chairman Adam Smith of the House Armed Services Committee referred to the new policy as “reprehensible.” Senator Tammy Duckworth, an Iraq veteran, wrote that “this offensive policy update will harm members of the U.S. Armed Forces, military families and civil servants who serve our Nation abroad.” If veterans denounce this policy will we see a decrease in the number of voluntary non-citizen service people? Why should people, who are not even US citizens, put their lives on the line if they are just going to be denied citizenship for their children?