The Trump Administration's New Citizenship Rules for Service Members Abroad Are Petty and Pointless

Their main purpose is to stick it to immigrants working for Uncle Sam overseas


Attacking the 14th Amendment's guarantee of birthright citizenship for those born on U.S. soil is a perennial sport for politicians and pundits. In 1993, former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D–Nev.) led a bipartisan effort to end birthright citizenship for children of undocumented aliens. Eighteen years later, the crusade was reignited by Republicans like Rep. Lamar Smith of Texas who was on a tear against the scourge of "anchor babies" that pregnant Mexican moms evidently rushed to America to deliver so that they would two decades later have someone to sponsor them for citizenship. Even a consummate NeverTrumper like George Will, a conservative-libertarian columnist, fell for the hysteria at the time and wholeheartedly backed Smith.

So if an ultra-restrictionist like President Donald Trump comes along and wants to scrap birthright citizenship for the children of illegal immigrants, no one can be surprised. But Trump wants to go much further than anyone else ever has. He wants to not just bar children of undocumented immigrants, but all immigrants, from getting birthright citizenship. Even more bizarrely, he says he'll accomplish this via an executive order.

With this backdrop, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) last week rolled out—in an utterly ham-handed fashion—a new rule governing birthright citizenship of children born abroad to U.S. service members or government employees, widespread confusion and panic set in. Many people took the rule, set to go into effect on Oct 29, to be stipulating that kids born abroad—even to an American parent—would no longer be entitled to automatic citizenship as has been the case to date. Rather, they would be required to jump through many additional bureaucratic hoops.

As it turns out, that wasn't true. If one parent serving abroad is an American citizen, their kids would remain entitled to automatic citizenship. What is true, however, is that kids born to U.S. employees who are not already American citizens would face significant new hurdles, as would adopted and step-children of citizen employees.

This is how it'll work:

Currently, children born and living overseas to parents who are serving Uncle Sam are, for the most part, considered to be residing in the United States. Hence, citizenship laws basically work as if they were actually on U.S. soil. In the case of American parents, this means that if, say, the father is a citizen and has a child while abroad, so long as the father meets certain U.S. residence requirements—such as having lived in America for five years before the child's birth, two of which were after the age of 14—the new rule would change nothing. He could transmit citizenship to his kids just as always. (The mother could do the same although the residence requirements for her are a bit lower.)

However, kids of Americans who don't meet the residence requirement and kids of non-citizen but legal service members born overseas will no longer be eligible for automatic citizenship. Also affected would be kids who don't hold green cards, who are adopted overseas by parents who meet the residence requirement. All these categories would have to go through a more cumbersome process.

In the case of American parents who adopt a foreign kid who does not have a green card, for example, the families would need to travel to the U.S. and live here to meet the residence requirement and then have their children take an oath of citizenship. There could possibly be a way for them to process the entire application overseas under a different law, but that would almost certainly be more involved.

Also, under current law, an American serviceman who marries a foreign mom can sponsor his wife for a green card. She can travel to the United States with her children to activate her green card and also become an American citizen on an expedited basis and simultaneously transmit her citizenship to her kids. But under the new rule, she won't be able to do so because the kids will not have met the residence requirements. She would either have to come and live in the U.S. with her children for a stipulated number of years before applying for their naturalization or apply under a different law that is much more cumbersome.

But the most affected would be immigrants who hold green cards who are serving the U.S. government abroad. Even under current rules, their kids aren't entitled to automatic birthright citizenship if born outside the U.S. But non-citizen servicemen at least were able to obtain naturalization on an expedited basis without the usual five-year wait if they had served for one year in the military. They could then transmit their citizenship to their kids. That would no longer be possible. Like citizen servicemen with foreign kids, the non-citizen servicemen would have to apply for their kids under a different—and much more cumbersome—law.

USCIS insists that had the new rules been in place over the past five years, no more than 25 people would have been affected. This strains credulity but if the impact is so small, then why do it? The agency claims that it is only reconciling its rules with those of the State Department. But such reconciliation could have been accomplished by getting the latter to conform to the nominally more immigrant-friendly USCIS rules. That's evidently too much to expect from an administration that deports veterans without qualms.

None of this is particularly draconian. But it shows not just this administration's boundless ambition in trying to stick it to immigrants, but also its boundless pettiness.


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  1. Speaking of Petty and Pointless…

  2. Currently, children born and living overseas to parents who are serving Uncle Sam are, for the most part, considered to be residing in the United States.

    Of course living overseas is the complete opposite of residing in the United States. Not sure why we’d want the law to conform to reality.

    Why not just declare everyone everywhere (including those living in Alpha Centauri) US citizens? That’s Shika’s and Reason’s endgame anyway.

  3. So basically, no significant change to the rules but let’s all freak out because Trump.

    1. Exactly. The rule didn’t actually change, what happened is that they brought the statement of the policy into congruence with the law. Or, as the DOJ stated it, “The only thing that changed is we directed them to file a different piece of paperwork.”

  4. a more cumbersome process.
    a different law that is much more cumbersome.
    a different—and much more cumbersome—law.

    The word of the day is “cumbersome”.

    1. Too heavy
      Too light
      Too black
      And too white
      They’re tonight, cumbersome

    1. First thing I thought when I saw the headline was “Didn’t Reason already do an article saying this wasn’t a big deal?” Then I saw the author or this article and it all made sense.


      1. Of this article.

  5. So the mini rant about attacking birthright citizenship has little or nothing to do with the regulation being put in place, just another primal scream about policies that do not make immigration and naturalization near documentation free..

    1. Hey, if you can’t express your TDS, what good is it?

    2. I’d like to see Reason, or anyone else, make a case FOR birthright citizenship as currently practiced and long ago intentionally misapplied.
      What are the benefits of handing out citizenship to the children of those illegally present in the US?
      What are the problems with denying people the incentive to infiltrate the US for the purpose of giving birth on US soil?

  6. SD:DR
    I am firmly committed to a strong stance in which I remain steadfast in my resolution to being squarely:
    right in the squishy middle regarding immigration. Not an open border advocate. But, not a huge fan of the wall. Overall kind of meh.
    But JFC this broad is really not that bright.
    Argument: People who may be helping the US in a foreign country, but aren’t themselves US citizens don’t automatically get their kids to be US citizens.
    Therefore: Trump is evil.

    1. End drug prohibition to end the cartels and bully their governments into capitalism and they will just stay there.

      1. And what will become of the cartels then?
        Will they simply disappear?

  7. Tuesday TDS has moved to Wednesday this week due to Labor Day. Unfortunately, I forgot to adjust my calendar.

    1. Which KIND of TDS? Pro-Trump TDS or anti-Trump TDS?

      Trump-can-do-no-wrong attitudes can be TDS too, you know!

  8. With Dalmia’s predictable Orange Man Bad screeds, I just go straight to comments.

    Remember when movies failed at the box office went straight to video?


    1. A better analogy would be previews that are better than the movie.

      1. or reviews that are better than the movie, some of Ebert’s negative reviews were like that

  9. It’s not pointless. The point is bigotry signaling aimed at authoritarian, low-character clingers.

    1. How’s the oral rape fantasies going weakling?

      1. Shoving progress down your whimpering throat has been America’s reality for the entirety of your lifetime, clinger.

        Has getting stomped into obsequiousness in the culture war made you cranky?

        1. You know who else shoved things down people’s throats?

          1. Jeffy’s Honduran convict pals?

        2. Keep your violent fantasies to yourself, slaver.

    2. And you stepped up, right on cue, slaver.

  10. So basically, under our immigration laws, the children of noncitizens who were not born on US soil but whose (noncitizen) parents work for the US government are not automatically considered citizens just like all of the other children of noncitizens who were not born on US soil.

    1. ORANGE-MAN-BAD!!!

      1. Yes!!!

        Orange Man bad?!? He BAD, all right! He SOOO BAD, He be GOOD! He be GREAT! He Make America Great Again!

        We KNOW He can Make America Great Again, because, as a bad-ass businessman, He Made Himself and His Family Great Again! He Pussy Grabber in Chief!

        “The Many Scandals of Donald Trump: A Cheat Sheet”
        He pussy-grab His creditors in 7 bankruptcies, His illegal sub-human workers ripped off of pay on His building projects, and His “students” in His fake Get-Rich-like-Me reality schools, and so on. So, He has a GREAT record of ripping others off! So SURELY He can rip off other nations, other ethnic groups, etc., in trade wars and border wars, for the benefit of ALL of us!!!
        All Hail to THE Pussy Grabber in Chief!!!

        Most of all, HAIL the Chief, for having revoked karma! What comes around, will no longer go around!!! The Donald has figured out that all of the un-Americans are SOOO stupid, that we can pussy-grab them all day, every day, and they will NEVER think of pussy-grabbing us right back!

        1. Hey, nice job addressing TW’s point.

          1. “So basically, under our immigration laws, the children of noncitizens who were not born on US soil but whose (noncitizen) parents work for the US government are not automatically considered citizens just like all of the other children of noncitizens who were not born on US soil.”

            Lesson of the day: Do NOT be a slut for the Government Almighty of the USA!!! Government Almighty of the USA will NOT pay you back for your sacrifices!!!

            THIS is also a central lesson to be learned here!!! So many of us fantasize that our support of those who we think is (or will be) the “winner” will earn us the support of the “winners” and their spoils.
            See “the night of the long knives” at… Ernst Röhm (head brownshirt, street brawler, for Hitler) thought his support of Hitler would leave him sitting pretty. So sorry, Ernst Röhm, Hitler had another thing coming for you…

            Those who support Government Almighty of the USA (whether native-born or not) have another thing coming… Orange Hitler will throw them under the bus, the VERY first instant that Orange Hilter finds it to be convenient to him… Just as Shitler-Hitler threw Ernst Röhm under the bus!

              1. Your argument and citations are compelling! Good job! Thanks Much for your contribution!

                1. At one time, I thought you were just a visual annoyance like Hihn.
                  Having read enough of your bullshit now, it turns out you’re as fucking ignorant as the worst TDS victim here, with even less ability to respond to the arguments.
                  Fuck off, you pathetic piece of shit.

                  1. And you are a Tulpa clone… Full of schoolyard insults, and hardly any thoughts worth reading.

            1. For the reading-stamina impaired, imagine that you’ve been serving USA-fed-guv in Afghanistan, putting your life on the line against the Taliban, but you and-or your spouse aren’t totally unquestionably REAL Americans, and…

              USA fed-guv says to you, “Here’s your paycheck. Be grateful for your pay! But, no, your dirty spawn aren’t REAL Americans. Hopefully the Taliban will welcome them as Afghan citizens, as we finally pull our forces out of this God-forsaken shithole. Good luck to you and yours!”

              1. Actually, what the USA fed-guy says to you is, “This is the form you have to fill out for your child to become a US citizen, it’s not automatic.”

            2. And it’s even worse, coming as it does, after Obama’s “not a whiff of scandal”. administration.

      2. ORANGE-MAN-BAD!!!

        Dammit. Why would you do that?

        These NPCs are easy enough to spot, why set one off?

        Especially a glitchy sock-laden one like this one.

        Now we’re going to have to sit here while it runs through everything it’s programmed to say.

  11. Why should we care about the opinion of someone who rejects the concept of citizenship on what the rules for citizenship should be?

    1. My country, right or wrong! America… Love it or leave it! My tribe GREAT! Your tribe SUCKS! Thus has it ever been… Thus must it ever be!
      If you don’t like it here… Even if you were born here… GO BACK WHERE YOU CAME FROM!

      WHY should we listen to ANYONE who rejects the basics of existence?

      1. Unresponsive.

        1. Beyond that; fucking idiotic.
          Trueman can’t match this pile of bullshit.

          1. Your argument and citations are compelling examples of splendid intellectual achievement! Good job! Thanks Much for your contribution!

  12. “Their main purpose is to stick it to immigrants working for Uncle Sam overseas”

    Are those people “immigrants”?

    1. I’m not sure how someone who has lived in the US for less than 5 years could adequately be classified as an immigrant.

  13. For an ‘expert’ on immigration, she gets the history wrong.

    “Many people took the rule, set to go into effect on Oct 29, to be stipulating that kids born abroad—even to an American parent—would no longer be entitled to automatic citizenship as has been the case to date”

    Implies that has always been the case which is wrong. I was born abroad to two American-by-birth parents some 50-odd years ago. My birth certificate is in triplicate and can only be obtained through the state department. My parents kept their copy of the original paperwork which (exhaustively) listed requirements for citizenship which, me being a nerd who was bored one day, I read.

    At that time, the only people who received automatic citizenship were:

    1. Those born within the borders of the United States, US Territories, or the Panama Canal Zone

    2. Those under three years old found abandoned in the above whose parents could not be traced

    3. Children born overseas of TWO American parents.

    Even kids with one American parent needed to return to the US before they were 18, live in the US for some amount of time I don’t remember, and forswear allegiance to any foreign government. There may have been exceptions for children of American citizens working directly for the US government. IIRC these rules all changed sometime in the 80’s or 90’s when the US started allowing dual citizenship.

    The US has always tried to balance the need and desire for immigration with the need and desire to have those immigrants loyal to the US and US constitutional values. But I suppose we should just forget about that and grant automatic citizenship to anyone who works for, marries someone who works for, or is in any way related to someone who works for the US government.

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