Things That Matter

Trump Moves To End Automatic Citizenship For Some Military Families Based Overseas, Here’s Why This Matters

There is no denying that the thorniest issues in Donald J. Trump’s presidency has been migration and citizenship. Whether it involves the Dream Act, detention centers in the border or issues of citizenship, the Trump administration seems to act like a severe judge who decides who “deserves” to be an American or call the United States home. 

The president has recently been vocal about the possibility of ending birthright citizenship, meaning that a baby will need more than just being born in the United States to be an American if their parents don’t have their paper in order. So when a recent change in citizenship policies came into effect, people saw it as a sign of worse things to come. From now on, citizenship is not guaranteed to the offspring of military personnel who are stationed overseas. Critics worry that this could be a slippery slope leading to the much feared end to birthright citizenship, a move that would redefine the social and ethical construct of the United States. 

Let’s get some background info first. The US Army has a long tradition of overseas deployments.

Credit: Instagram. @USARMYEUROPE

The United States Army has participated in two world wars and been involved in other international conflicts. It also has a strong presence in the five continents. Many of the servicemen and servicewomen deployed overseas have families with them, or form families with partners from the host country (perhaps what makes Trump officials queasy). 

You could populate a small city with the amount of US military personnel living overseas in 177 countries.

Credit: us-personnel-chart-military (1). Digital image. Visualcapitalist.com

The United States has a strong military presence in the world, particularly in Europe and Asia. Japan and South Korea in particular host over 50,000 United States troops. This means that there are cultural and personal exchanges happening every single day, which is common in this day and age of globalization. 

So what does the policy change actually mean? The number of affected individuals is low, but the consequences could be dire. 

Credit: Instagram. @USARMYEUROPE

The policy change only affects a handful of individuals, but could set a precedent for harsher and more defining moves. The New York Times explains the mechanics of the policy: “[it] would make some parents serving abroad who adopted children or who had spent limited time in the United States apply for citizenship for children not born on American soil. Immigration lawyers and military groups predicted that for those families, citizenship would have to come through an onerous, expensive application process — if it comes at all”. According to experts, the policy could affect 100 families. Each year there are about 25 applications. 

Democrats blasted the move, claiming that it is a disservice to the military.

Credit: Twitter. @RepGilCisneros

Gil Cisneros, Representative of California’s 39th Congressional District serves on the House Armed Services Committee (HASC) and the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee (HVAC), so his opinion has a fair amount of weight in Washington. He is totally opposed to the new policy and has been very combative on social media. He is also a member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. Will this backfire on the Trump administration come election time?

Veteran policymakers are also appalled.

Credit: Twitter. @RepBarbarLee

African-American Barbara Lee, U.S. Representative for California’s 13th congressional district since 1998, has gone even farther and claimed that the decision is triggered by a racist worldview. Nancy Pelosi also expressed her discontent, tweeting: “America’s servicemembers & diplomats abroad are among our nation’s best, yet @realDonaldTrump is launching an attack on their families, putting in doubt the citizenship of their children born overseas. This shameful policy must be reversed immediately”. The drums of political war are beating. 

The hashtag #TrumpHatesMilitaryFamilies became a trending topic.

Credit: Twitter. @grantstern

The move is rather symbolic and exacerbates tensions that already existed between the military and the Trump administration. Jeremy Buttler, the chief executive of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, told The New York Times: “By targeting the citizenship of children, the administration has made service abroad — an already intense, stressful environment — even more difficult for military families to navigate. It’s unclear what issue this policy is trying to solve, and why it’s going into effect imminently without a plan for education, outreach and support for those it affects”.

So close to election time, #TrumpHatesMilitaryFamilies punctures one of the GOP’s most favorable demographics.

Credit: Twitter. @thosemuckrakers

It is no secret that the GOP is generally favored by members of the military when it comes to elections. Veterans in particular tend to vote Republican. In 2016, Donald Trump received 61% of  the veteran vote. Could moves like this change that tendency?

Others have called out the presidency for a pattern of singling out particular communities.

Credit: Twitter. @in_pubs

Some Twitter users are connecting this policy change to other shifts in immigration policies, particularly the so-called “Muslim ban”. This veteran will simply not have it. Officials have played down the criticism, arguing that the change just requires different paperwork and that it does not affect birthright citizenship.

But opposing voices are adding up. Trend News Agency reports Andy Blevins, executive director of the Modern Military Association of America, which advocates for gay and lesbian service members, as saying: “Military members already have enough to deal with, and the last thing that they should have to do when stationed overseas is go through hoops to ensure their children are U.S. citizens”. 

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