Should U.S. military service automatically grant you citizenship?

On Behalf of | Jan 9, 2018 | Citizenship

You may not realize that many U.S. military personnel fight overseas for our freedom every day without having the full benefits of American freedom themselves. These brave men and women—legal permanent residents—put their lives on the line for us, but could still be subject to deportation if they later make a misstep against the law.

Such is the case for Miguel Perez Jr., a green card holder and decorated army veteran who served two tours in Afghanistan. Like many permanent residents who serve in our military, he mistakenly believed that by taking an oath to serve and protect the United States, he was also gaining the full rights of a citizen.

When Perez returned from the war, he was diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Like many suffering from PTSD, he got mixed up in drugs. He was arrested and convicted for a drug crime. He served seven years in prison. Upon his release, he expected to return to his home in Chicago. He was surprised to be moved instead to a holding facility, facing the prospect of deportation to Mexico.

Perez’s lawyers have since filed multiple petitions to keep him in the country. Among these is a request for the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to retroactively grant citizenship from the date he enlisted in 2001. The USCIS has special provisions that give people serving of the U.S. military a path to citizenship. However, while he was enlisted, none of Perez’s superiors ever offered him information about or aid in the naturalization process. He therefore operated under the assumption that he was already a citizen.

What do you think? Should honorable service in the U.S. military automatically earn immigrants the right to naturalization?