Effingham, Ill. (Washington D.C.) – Following reports that the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services shuttered its offices at U.S. Army basic training locations – which help military recruits and servicemembers apply for citizenship – as a result of a new Pentagon policy, combat Veteran and U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) released the following statement:
“Our military is stronger because of the diversity of those who serve in it.”
“No matter where you were born and what background you come from, if you are able and willing to wear the uniform of this great nation, you should have the opportunity to become an American citizen.”
“The closure of these offices makes that significantly harder and it violates the commitment we have made to thousands of brave men and women who signed up to defend our country through the MAVNI program. It’s disappointing to see the Trump administration head in such a shameful direction.”
Duckworth has introduced several bills to prevent Veterans and servicemembers from being deported and denied the opportunity to become citizens of the nation they swore to defend.
Her legislation would establish naturalization offices at military training facilities to make it easier for servicemembers to become citizens, prohibit the administration from deporting Veterans and give legal permanent residents a path to citizenship through military service.
Duckworth has also co-sponsored legislation to protect military recruits who have enlisted through the Military Accessions Vital to National Interest (MAVNI) program from being discharged or deported due to their immigration status.
There are an estimated 1,000 to 1,800 recruits – including hundreds of DREAMers – who have skills that are underrepresented in the U.S. military and are currently waiting for the chance to serve our country and swear allegiance to the United States.
Duckworth also introduced a private bill last month to help fellow combat Veteran Miguel Perez, Jr., remain in the United States. Perez is an immigrant who grew up in Illinois and served two tours of duty in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom.
He has lived in the United States as a Legal Permanent Resident since the age of 11 but never became a citizen during his time in the military, which was before these immigration offices were opened at military bases. He is now facing immediate deportation after being stripped of his legal status.