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By Will Racke
The Trump administration will keep in place a policy that allows immigrants to earn expedited U.S. citizenship by serving in the military, a Department of Defense (DOD) official confirmed to Fox News.
A 2002 executive order issued by former President George W. Bush opened the door for the military to recruit noncitizens and work with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to streamline citizenship processing for service members. DOD spokesman Lt. Col. Myles Caggins told Fox News that the administration has no plans to discontinue or change the policy.
“Law ensures that the sacrifice of noncitizens during a time of national need is met with an opportunity for early citizenship, to recognize their contribution and sacrifice,” Caggins wrote in an email, according to Fox News’ Monday article.
Under current law, all noncitizens who have served honorably in the U.S. military on or after Sept. 11, 2001 are eligible to immediately file for citizenship. The Naturalization at Basic Training Initiative, implemented by the Obama administration in 2009, allows immigrants to naturalize when they graduate from boot camp.
Between 2002 and 2015, USCIS naturalized 109,321 service members under the expedited citizenship initiative.
Obama also began the practice of allowing recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy–undocumented immigrants known as “dreamers’–to enlist in the military if they possess valued foreign language or medical skills. The Army, which is the only branch that accepts DACA recipients, enlisted 359 such recruits in fiscal year 2016, Fox News reported.
During the 2016 campaign, President Donald Trump suggested he would permit illegal immigrants who wanted to serve in the armed forces to stay in the U.S. and ultimately earn citizenship, calling it “a very special circumstance” during a presidential candidates’ forum in September. (RELATED: An Estimated 36,000 Illegal Immigrants Have Received Amnesty Under Trump, As He Reneges On Promise)
“I think when you serve in the armed forces, that’s a very special situation and I could see myself working that out, absolutely,” Trump said of allowing undocumented immigrants to serve in the military.