CERTAIN children born outside of the United States will no longer be automatically U.S. citizens due to a new policy issued by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) on Wednesday, August 28.
The original rollout of the new rule confused many, prompting USCIS to issue a clarification regarding to whom this rule applies.
The rule would affect three categories of individuals: children of non-U.S. citizens adopted by the non-citizen U.S. government employees or service members, children of non-U.S. citizen government employees or service members, and children of U.S. citizens who don’t meet residency requirements.
The main takeaway from the new policy change involves a differentiation between what it means to hold residency in the U.S. versus physically living on U.S. soil.
Previously under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), all children born to U.S. service members and other government employees were officially recognized as “residing in the United States” and, in turn, were automatically granted U.S. citizenship.
“If you’re not born on U.S. soil — and military bases aren’t considered U.S. soil — if you’re not born on U.S. soil, you can get citizenship through your parents,” a USCIS official told Task & Purpose. “But the parent has to be a U.S. citizen when you’re born. Otherwise they can’t transmit anything to you.”
“If you are a permanent resident and you have a child, there’s no U.S. citizenship transmission that you can do to the child on the day of their birth,” the official added.” You can’t transmit what you don’t have.”
This new rule would affect wide swaths of children born overseas to service members and government employees, many of whom are of Asian descent and were born in military bases around Asia.
Though this rule does narrow the ways in which these affected children gain U.S. citizenship, it doesn’t outright make them ineligible. Now those children who are affected must acquire U.S. citizenship through other legal channels.
But Wednesday’s announcement joins a long string of controversial immigration policies announced under the Trump administration, which has proposed slashing legal immigration programs like family-based petitioning.
Senator Tammy Duckworth — who is half-Thai through her mother and half-white through her late Army veteran father — issued a letter to the USCIS condemning the “confusing, cynical, unnecessary and unfair” policy.
“The bottom line is that this offensive policy update will harm members of the U.S. Armed Forces, military families and civil servants who serve our Nation abroad. Americans who choose to serve our country deserve respect and the possibility that their child may be denied citizenship under Section 322 of the INA is insulting,” Duckworth wrote. “What purpose does this new policy serve other than sending the deeply offensive message that certain children bom to Americans serving their Nation abroad are somehow “lesser” individuals and unworthy of automatic citizenship?”
The rule goes into effect on Oct. 29, 2019. (Klarize Medenilla/AJPress)