January 23, 2020
Contact: Evan Keller (Duckworth),
Emily Hampsten (Durbin),
Natalie Krings (Rounds),

Duckworth Leads Bipartisan Request for GAO Review of Military Naturalization Process

Rate of naturalizations for noncitizen servicemembers has decreased dramatically in recent years

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), a combat Veteran and member of the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC), today requested the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) review and address questions about the effectiveness of several military naturalization policies that affect noncitizens willing to serve the United States in uniform. U.S. Senators Mike Rounds (R-SD), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and Dick Durbin (D-IL), Vice Chairman of the Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, joined Duckworth in making this bipartisan request after the rate of naturalizations for noncitizen servicemembers decreased dramatically in recent years.

“Throughout U.S. history, noncitizens have served in the U.S. Armed Forces,” wrote the Senators. “From 2010 to 2018, over 76,000 noncitizen members of the U.S. military became naturalized U.S. citizens, with over 4,000 of those servicemembers naturalized abroad. However, the annual number of naturalizations for noncitizen servicemembers has decreased, from 11,230 in fiscal year 2010 to 4,135 in fiscal year 2018.”

“Both DOD and DHS have independently originated polices and initiatives affecting military naturalizations. However, recent policy changes by DOD and DHS regarding military naturalizations may potentially impact the scope and effectiveness of these programs,” the Senators continued. “While DOD and USCIS have made policies to help noncitizen servicemembers naturalize in the past, we urge GAO to evaluate the effectiveness of these initiatives.”

Senator Duckworth re-introduced three bills last year to protect and support Veterans and servicemembers. Her proposals—the Veterans Visa and Protection Act, HOPE Act and I-VETS Act—would prohibit the deportation of Veterans who are not violent offenders, give legal permanent residents a path to citizenship through military service and strengthen VA healthcare services for Veterans. She also introduced legislation last November to protect military families from deportation and wrote to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) demanding a deported U.S. Marine Veteran be allowed to re-enter the country to attend his citizenship interview after he was denied entry at the border.

On Veterans Day, Duckworth traveled to Tijuana, Mexico, to meet with a group of Veterans who have been deported to hear about their efforts to access the VA healthcare benefits they’ve earned.

A full copy of the letter is available online here.