Immigrant soldiers sue to become US citizens, claiming DoD broke promise
Six Soldiers have filed a class action lawsuit accusing that the promise of American citizenship for the service – dating back to the nation’s founding – has been broken by the Pentagon’s restrictive naturalization policies.
The six non-citizen soldiers, who all enlisted in the Army under the Vital National Interest Military Accessions Program, or MAVNI, alleged that new and lengthy security checks for possible terrorist links and other measures effectively prevented them from obtaining citizenship.
The lawsuit, filed on their behalf by the American Civil Liberties Union, accuses Department of Defense policies adopted in 2017 “of illegally hampering the ability of thousands of servicemen to obtain US citizenship, placing them in a state of vacuum. personal and professional ”.
“I have taken an oath to protect this country and I am doing my best to live up to the values of the army,” said Pfc. Ange Samma, originally from Burkina Faso and one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit.
“It has been frustrating and heartbreaking not to get my citizenship as promised, but I will continue to honor my commitment,” Samma, who now serves with the 339th Quartermaster Company at Camp Humphrey in South Korea, said in a statement accompanying the lawsuit.
Government attorneys have signaled they will vigorously challenge the lawsuit, which was originally filed on April 24 in federal court in the District of Columbia and names the DoD and Secretary of Defense Mark Esper as defendants.
The government challenged two of MAVNI’s plaintiffs to remain anonymous, citing fears of retaliation, and the court agreed. The lawsuit was filed on April 27, naming the six plaintiffs, said Scarlet Kim, one of the ACLU’s attorneys.
She said the first request in the lawsuit was to obtain a court ruling on the ACLU’s request for a preliminary injunction to end the restrictions before the case proceeds, but a ruling on the request is not expected for months.
The lawsuit alleges that the DoD and Esper “have adopted an illegal policy of denying honorable service certifications from plaintiffs, which they require to apply for naturalization based on their current military service.”
“As a result, the accused are denying thousands of men and women in uniform the US citizenship that Congress has long promised to non-citizens serving in our military,” the lawsuit said.
From the War of Independence to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, “US laws enacted during times of armed conflict have allowed non-citizens to naturalize almost immediately after entering service and before deployment“But the new rules made that nearly impossible, according to the lawsuit.
The basic requirement for a military naturalization application was to complete Form N-426 for United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) certifying honorable service.
Previous practice was that the form could be completed almost immediately after showing up for basic training, but the DoD changed the rules in October 2017, the lawsuit costs.
“The new criteria require service members to complete an additional DoD background check; pass a” Military Service Fitness Determination, “which purports to determine a service member’s security risk to the military; and serve for a minimum of 180 days for active duty members and one year for selected reserve members “before they can earn N-426 certification, according to the lawsuit.
“The DoD’s subversion of the statutory regime is so significant that it is now more difficult for many military personnel to naturalize through the expedited process than through the ordinary civilian process,” the lawsuit accuses.
However, the DoD said in a statement when announcing the new rules that while the department “recognizes the value of expedited U.S. citizenship obtained through military service, it is in the national interest to ensure that all current and potential military personnel total security and adequacy. screening before naturalization.
From 2008 to 2016, around 10,400 foreign nationals were recruited through the MAVNI program, which is designed to bring in non-nationals with language skills or expertise in healthcare and technology including the military. needs, according to the DoD.
Two previous lawsuits have been filed against the policy for selected reserve MAVNI service members, but the ACLU has described the current lawsuit as the first to represent all non-citizen service members.
In addition to Samma, the plaintiffs in the lawsuit include:
- Pfc. Abner Bouomo, with the 25th Infantry Division at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii.
- Pvt. 2nd Class Ahmad Isiaka, serving in the selected reserve with the 644th Transportation Company in Houston, Texas.
- Pvt. 2nd Class Michael Perez, with 2nd Battalion, 377th Parachute Artillery Regiment, at Joint base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska.
- Pvt. 2nd Class Sumin Park, also serving with the 2nd Battalion, 377th Parachute Field Artillery Regiment, at JBER.
- CPS. Yu Min Lee, serving at Schofield Barracks.
– Richard Sisk can be reached at [email protected]
View full article
© Copyright 2021 Military.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.