Congresswoman Escobar Leads Letter to DoD and DHS on Non-Citizen Servicemembers Seeking Naturalization with Cisneros and Carbajal

September 12, 2019
Press Release

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, Congresswoman Veronica Escobar (TX-16), member of the House Armed Services Committee, along with Congressmen Gilbert R. Cisneros, Jr. (CA-39) and Salud Carbajal (CA-24), led a letter to Secretary of Defense Mark Esper and Acting Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Kevin McAleenan seeking answers regarding Department of Defense (DoD) policy on the process for non-citizen servicemembers seeking naturalization and how the Department of Homeland Security, specifically the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), evaluates servicemember applications for naturalization.

In 2017, DoD issued a memorandum outlining several changes to the certification process for military servicemembers seeking naturalization. The drop in the number of servicemembers applying for and earning U.S. citizenship in recent years raises serious concerns that policies by these agencies may be impeding those who have put their lives on the line to defend our nation from seeking and attaining naturalization.

“We are puzzled by what we have found in the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ (USCIS) data. In the second quarter of fiscal year 2019, USCIS denied 17.6 percent of military applications for citizenship—more than 6 percent higher than the 11 percent civilian application denial rate. The report marks an increase from the first quarter fiscal year 2019 denial rate for military applicants and it is the seventh quarterly report out of the last nine that has noted a higher rate of denial for military applicants than civilian applicants,” wrote the lawmakers.

They continued, “We are baffled that those servicemembers who volunteered to protect and defend the United States and fulfilled the requirements outlined in the DoD policy memorandum, to include honorable service and honorable discharge, would be denied at a rate higher than the civilian population seeking U.S. citizenship.”

Joining the lawmakers leading the letter are: Representatives Julia Brownley (CA-26), Cheri Bustos (IL-17), Tony Cárdenas (CA-29), André Carson (IN-07), Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ-12), Gerald E. Connolly (VA-11), Jim Costa (CA-16), Charlie Crist (FL-13), Jason Crow (CO-06), Henry Cuellar (TX-28), Sharice L. Davids (KS-03), Danny K. Davis (IL-07), Adriano Espaillat (NY-13), Bill Foster (IL-11), Ruben Gallego (AZ-07), John Garamendi (CA-03), Jesús G. "Chuy" García (IL-04), Raúl M. Grijalva (AZ-03), James A. Himes (CT-04), Chrissy Houlahan (PA-06), Rick Larsen (WA-02), Barbara Lee (CA-13), Alan Lowenthal (CA-47), Tom Malinowski (NJ-07), James P. McGovern (MA-02), Grace Meng (NY-06), Grace F. Napolitano (CA-32), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Scott H. Peters (CA-52), Max Rose (NY-11), Bobby L. Rush (IL-01), Jan Schakowsky (IL-09), Terri A. Sewell (AL-07), Mikie Sherrill (NJ-11), Abigail D. Spanberger (VA-07), Jackie Speier (CA-14), Haley Stevens (MI-11), Mark Takano (CA-41), Dina Titus (NV-01), Paul D. Tonko (NY-20), Xochitl Torres Small (NM-02), Lori Trahan (MA-03), Juan Vargas (CA-51), and Marc Veasey (TX-33).

The full text of the letter can be found below and downloaded here.