Thompson, Ros-Lehtinen Propose Immigration Reforms for Non-Citizen Military Personnel and Their Families

May 3, 2017
Press Release

Washington – Today, Reps. Mike Thompson (D-CA-05) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL-27) introduced the Support and Defend Our Military Personnel and Their Families Act. This bipartisan bill would make it easier for non-citizen servicemembers, veterans, and their families to become naturalized.

“If you put your life on your line to serve our country, protect our freedoms, and keep us safe, you shouldn’t have to worry about your immigration status,” said Thompson. “More than 20,000 brave men and women currently serve in our Armed Forces as non-citizens. They risk so much for our country, we should make sure they and their families have a clear path to citizenship, free of bureaucratic red tape or undo hassle.”

“The thousands of non-citizen servicemembers who proudly risked their lives every day by serving in our armed forces should be afforded every opportunity to pledge allegiance to the American flag, a commitment that is already inscribed in their hearts,” said Ros-Lehtinen.  “I’m proud to join Mike in reintroducing the Support and Defend Our Military Personnel and their Families Act so that those who have bravely fought to preserve our freedom are also able to enjoy those same freedoms. Our bill would also recognize the sacrifices of military families by allowing them to expedite their petitions for lawful permanent residency. After the honorable service of these brave man and women, we should be working toward welcoming their loyalty and removing barriers so that they, along with their families, can also contribute to our communities.” 

This bill would:

  • Help veterans and servicemembers who have served honorably become U.S. citizens
  • Make it easier to reunite active-duty, lawful permanent residents with their nuclear family members
  • Keep families of military personnel together

While current law allows for expedited naturalization for many non-citizens in our Armed Forces, not all honorably discharged veterans or servicemembers are eligible. This bill would extend expedited naturalization eligibility to those not currently covered, such as soldiers who served in the armed conflicts in Kosovo and Bosnia in the 1990s. It would also ensure nuclear family members of military personnel also have access to these expedited petitions, and would be exempt from the numerical caps that limit the number of petitions granted each year.

Thompson is a Vietnam combat veteran and the Co-Chair of the Military Veterans Caucus.