Children born abroad to certain American service members and other federal employees will no longer be granted automatic citizenship under a Trump administration policy set to take effect in October.
Parents of those children, including those born on military bases, will have to apply for citizenship on the children’s behalf before they turn 18, according to a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services policy released Wednesday.
The policy appeared to be aimed at military families who have not lived in the United States for years. According to the immigration agency, the change would not affect the children of families with at least one parent who is an American citizen and has lived in the United States for at least five years.
It was unclear how many families would be affected.
A spokeswoman for the Pentagon said the effect would be small, without specifying how many parents would be required to apply for citizenship for their children under the change. A spokeswoman for the citizenship and immigration agency, which oversees legal immigration, also declined to provide the number of families who would be affected.
The policy change from the agency, which is part of the Department of Homeland Security, infuriated many at the Pentagon and confused others in the military community, who said it called into question the administration’s appreciation of members of the armed services.
“The children of Americans who risk their lives in uniform are not automatically citizens of the United States? That is an abominable and antipatriotic position for the Trump administration to take,” said Will Goodwin, an Army veteran and director of government relations for VoteVets, a liberal advocacy organization for veterans.
Officials at Citizenship and Immigration Services said the change would rescind a policy that considered children of the government employees stationed abroad to be “residing in the United States” at the time of their birth, allowing them to obtain automatic citizenship.
Ken Cuccinelli, the agency’s acting director, issued a statement contrasting the new policy and birthright citizenship, which grants citizenship to any baby born on U.S. soil. President Donald Trump had previously said that his administration was seriously looking at removing the right to citizenship for children born in the United States to undocumented immigrants.
“This policy update does not affect anyone who is born a U.S. citizen, period,” said Cuccinelli, who has aggressively pushed hard-line immigration policies backed by Trump and Stephen Miller, a White House adviser. “This only affects children who were born outside the United States and were not U.S. citizens.”
It was Cuccinelli’s latest attempt to limit legal immigration to the United States.
He previously announced a new rule that would deny green cards to immigrants deemed likely to be heavy welfare users. In defense of that policy, Cuccinelli said the famous poem on the Statue of Liberty welcoming immigrants to the United States referred to “people coming from Europe.”
Officials from the immigration agency said Wednesday that the children of the military members who are affected would still have the opportunity to apply for citizenship.
Immigrant advocates have said the Trump administration has unfairly treated members of the military who aren’t American citizens. The Associated Press reported last year that the Army was quietly and abruptly discharging soldiers who enlisted through a special recruitment program that promised a path to citizenship.
Andy Blevins, executive director of the Modern Military Association of America, a nonprofit representing lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender military and veteran families, said the change would add to the toll of the armed services.
“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,” Blevins said. “This preposterous change by the Trump-Pence administration is truly beyond reasonable.”