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A group of immigrants serving in the armed forces become citizens at a naturalization ceremony in New York. (Photo: Sgt. Randall A. Clinton/Marine Corps)
A group of immigrants serving in the armed forces become citizens at a naturalization ceremony in New York. (Photo: Sgt. Randall A. Clinton/Marine Corps)

You can serve, but you can’t stay

The US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has closed its offices in the basic training locations of the Armed Forces.

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Long gone are the promises of the Secretary of Defense, James Mattis, in which he assured that immigrants in the army would have a secure path to citizenship.

"We will always stand by one of our people," the Secretary said. "They will not be subject to any kind of deportation. In terms of the DACA situation, it’s clarified that they are not in any kind of jeopardy," he told a press conference last February.

But reality, once again, is totally different.

As reported by Buzzfeed, the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has closed its centers in Fort Benning, Georgia, Fort Jackson and Fort Still since January 26 this year.

Previously, these offices handled naturalization processes for foreign citizens and for the families of those who decided to serve in the Armed Forces.

As the platform explains, "closing the offices means the end of expedited citizenship for recruits immediately after they complete basic training", an element contained within the Military Accessions Vital to National Interest (MAVNI) program, which has naturalized more than 10,400 members since 2009.

In a document dated January 30 and made public by the agency, the decision was argued: "USCIS has decided to end the Naturalization at Basic Training Initiative due to changes in Department of Defense requirements for certifying honorable service for US service members applying for naturalization."

The maneuver seems to be then to create a strategic vacuum in which the immigrants, who have decided to serve the country they consider home, are caught in a maze of bureaucratic procedures that vilely expose them to deportation.

The new requirements of the Department of Defense include "to serve for at least 180 consecutive days and complete extra background and security checks before they can be granted citizenship,” which would imply a significant delay for many of the recruits who see their visas expire before they can complete the entire process and transform them into immigration detention objectives.

As Buzzfeed continues, soldiers at Fort Jackson, for example, "are now two hours away from the nearest USCIS office in Charleston, and even then, they are usually not allowed to leave the base."

Despite the news, the digital community of recruits belonging to MAVNI has decided to remain united, requesting Congress an imminent solution to the failed immigration system.

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