A Soldier holds an American flag prior to the start of an oath of citizenship ceremony in the General George Patton Museum's Abrams Auditorium at Fort Knox, Kentucky, Sept. 19, 2018. (U.S. Army/ Eric Pilgrim)
ASHINGTON — Immigrants serving in the U.S. military are being denied citizenship at a higher rate than foreign-born civilians, according to new government data that has revealed the impact of stricter Trump administration immigration policies on service members.
According to the same data, the actual number of service members even applying for U.S. citizenship has also plummeted since President Donald Trump took office, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services reported in its quarterly naturalization statistics.
"The U.S. has had a long-standing tradition of immigrants come to the U.S. and have military service provide a path to citizenship," said retired U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Paul Eaton, a senior adviser to the liberal veterans advocacy group VoteVets.org. "To have this turnaround, where they are actually taking a back seat to the civilian population, strikes me as a bizarre turn of events."
According to the most recent USCIS data available, the agency denied 16.6% of military applications for citizenship, compared to an 11.2% civilian denial rate in the first quarter of fiscal year 2019, a period that covers October to December 2018.
The fiscal year 2019 data is the eighth quarterly report of military naturalization rates since Trump took office. In six of the last eight reports, civilians had a higher rate of approval for citizenship than military applicants did, reversing the previous trend.